The Rise of Industrial HempHemp companies are on the rise and positioning themselves for exponential demand and industrial expansion in the next few years.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 has changed the US’s perspective of the versatile plant, as well as allowed for the reemergence of the industry. Although what was already once a booming sector of the economy, hemp became illegal with the introduction of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. In 2015, hemp was removed from the definition of "marijuana" under the Controlled Substances Act, thus allowing for the growth of the plant as long as it is under state law and does not exceed 0.3% THC. Due to being such a multi-functional plant, from medicine to paper to even building houses, hemp demand is on the rise. It has been predicted that by 2020, the hemp industry will be a $1.1 billion industry and by 2022, as much as $1.8 billion.
Maine’s Industrial Hemp Program
Future Farm Technologies, Inc., headquartered in BC, Canada, is one of those companies staying ahead of the hemp curve. Recently, its subsidiary in Maine was awarded three licenses for the cultivation of industrial hemp. Between the three locations in Amity, Hersey, and Belfast, Future Farm will be showcasing its technologically-advanced vertical integration of hemp farms and CBD oil production.
The licensing process of Maine’s Industrial Hemp Program is rather self-explanatory. Those wishing to enter the industry need to fill out the two-page application and submit it to the Maine Department of Agriculture along with their $100 application fee. After an application is approved, licensees must then pay a $500 licensing and $50/acre fee. Until the spring of 2017, Maine law had required that industrial hemp was to be planted using only a certified seed source, which is defined as a source that has been certified by the Association of Seed Certifying Agencies. This factor posed difficulty for Maine's industrial hemp farmers, as obtaining certified seeds posed both risks and challenges.
In the spring of 2017, however, Maine decided to allow hemp farmers to grow from clones, as long as they can provide a third-party analysis of the plants. Growers can now also germinate seedlings, defined as non-flowering plants no taller than 12 inches, indoors before being transplanted outdoors. Plants must be transferred outdoors by June 1st without covering.
Future Farm Technologies, Inc.
At Future Farm’s Belfast location, 250,000 hemp seeds will germinate in the next few months, before being transferred to the Amity and Hersey farms for the 2018 growing season. Currently, Future Farm owns a 120-acre farm and recently leased another 100-acre farm to plant on, with the option of leasing an additional 1000-acres should the need arise.
Future Farm’s methodologies are both environmentally and technologically advanced. The hemp seeds in Maine will be germinated using the company's Scorpion LED grow lights, for the eventual transfer to organic-certified farmland. Another area of the industry where Future Farm is breaking ground is in their hemp genetics and clone creation.
In 2017, Future Farm partnered with Rahan Meristem Ltd. to develop elite clones of both hemp and cannabis to meet market demands. Rahan Meristem, headquartered in Isreal, is a world-renowned agro-biotechnology company that produces millions of plants each year for exportation to over 20 countries. The goal of their partnership with Future Farm is to create hyper-specific genetics to meet a variety of needs. Rahan Meristem has does not produce plants labeled GMO and has been successful in this process for various other plant types.
The extraction techniques practiced by Future Farm are also on par with their cultivation practices. By using a closed-loop liquid-liquid extraction system, cannabinoids are drawn out of the hemp plant efficiently and effectively. Future Farm hopes that these extracts will be used to supply the growing medicinal and recreational market, as well as for pharmaceutical research.
A suspected boom in the hemp market
In December 2017, GW Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian-based company, announced the acceptance of their filing with Priority Review of its New Drug Application (NDA), Epidoliex. The new drug, with CBD as an active ingredient, would be used to battle against treatment-resistant conditions of childhood-onset epilepsy, such as LGS and Dravet Syndrome.
If the review is approved by the FDA, whose current goal-approval date is June 27, 2018, it is expected that the CBD market will expand drastically. Future Farms is currently positioning itself to be a significant supplier of this and future CBD demands. The approval of Epidoliex would open up the doors to endless opportunities for CBD as a course of treatment for various maladies, thus positioning the industrial hemp industry to meet the market demands for CBD.