Produce Grower: Although consumers may not see R&D directly, how important is it for keeping fresh products that consumers stay interested in?
Mohammed Oufattole: Our small planet Earth is faced with unprecedented pressure from its growing and increasingly demanding inhabitants, the consequence of which is manifested in a changing climate that is eating away at the traditional crop production land. The subsequent agricultural intensification has led to a narrowing of the genetic diversity of cultivated crops and, in many cases, a reduction of the nutritional and sensory attributes of our food. Needless to say that a sustained investment in crop improvement R&D is of paramount importance not only to our quality of life and well-being, but also to the survival of our future generations
PG: How does your previous experience play into this role and what you’ll be doing at Revol?
MO: My experience spans a broad spectrum of crop improvement technologies and applications, ranging from molecular breeding, biologicals, to biotechnology and gene editing, along with the application of data science and predictive analytics across every step of the product development cycle. It also included a range of product development applications stretching from protecting and enhancing crop yield to improving nutritional and flavor qualities of foods and food ingredients. As previously mentioned, this toolbox of technologies is as relevant to CEA as it is to field agriculture. What is different is the type of improvements one would point them to.
PG: What appealed to you about working for Revol?
MO: The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at Revol! The company was founded on a long and deep tradition of CEA cultivation, going all the way to the Netherlands, where there are nearly as many greenhouses and as residential homes. The company’s commitment to bringing fresh, high-quality greens to every neighborhood store across the country is unshakable and contagious.
PG: What potential do you see in the CEA market?
MO: CEA is already pushing agriculture into new and uncommon frontiers, including all forms of inhospitable land. The decades-long held belief that only one-third of the globe’s land surface is suitable for agriculture is being challenged by the technological advances in CEA, which open the door to year-round cultivation of healthy and nutritious food virtually anywhere on earth and potentially other planets. In partnership with multiple research organizations, NASA is already running experiments growing crops aboard the International Space Station and studying the behavior of plant growth in soilless, low gravity environments. Back here on earth, I believe that CEA, combined with modern breeding techniques and advanced data modeling, will help restore the nutritional and health benefits that have begun to deteriorate in our food.