From farm to table, Dr. Oats’ life was a contribution towards Canadian agriculture
This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
Algonquin College Journalism Program
Dr. Vernon Burrows has a storied history in the agriculture field. He invented a type of oat known as “The Rice of the Prairies,” otherwise known as Cavena Nuda – a product that was not only nutritious and delicious, but also had the potential to change the world.
The Cavena Nuda is bred to not have any hull or hair when it leaves the farmer’s field. As there is no need for milling, the environmental impact and costs are significantly reduced during the processing and shipping of this new grain. The crop is also resilient towards rain, inspiring its nickname. Much higher in nutritional value then white rice or traditional oats, this grain could be grown in developing nations as an alternative to traditional crops.
Burrows’ many contributions have earned him the moniker “Dr. Oat.” In 1953, he earned his Master of Science from the University of Manitoba and proceeded to earn his PhD at McGill. Working the majority of his career at Agriculture Canada in Ottawa, he served as adjunct professor for McGill, University of Guelph and the University of Ottawa. His contributions to the agricultural industry have inspired a bronze bust of his likeness in China.
In 2009 Burrows’ work even appeared on the CBC Show, Dragons’ Den. Farmer Scott Sigvaldason succeeded in getting a deal by presenting one of the 28 breeds of breakfast cereal staple invented by Dr. Burrows before the entrepreneurial panel. However, this would not have been possible without the ingenuity and innovative discoveries of Dr. Burrows.
Burrows was inducted in the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2004.