Florida Hemp Program Greenlit and Gearing for Growth

Florida Hemp Program Greenlit and Gearing for Growth

Laura Baldwin Fuentes and Arby Barroso of Green Roads Inc.

Green Roads Inc. has stepped up to help fund University of Florida’s industrial hemp pilot program. Pictured are company co-founders Laura Baldwin Fuentes and Arby Barroso.
Photo courtesy of Green Roads Inc.

The fledgling pilot project led by University of Florida scientists to explore the potential of producing industrial hemp across the state is getting wings thanks to initial funding from a private partner. Green Roads Inc. has reportedly invested $1.3 million to sponsor the first phase of the UF/IFAS research program.

The funds will go to support field trials currently being set up in three locations around the state: Quincy, Hague, and Homestead. According to UF/IFAS, field trials will focus on testing varieties of the industrial hemp plant and cropping systems for establishing industrial hemp production in Florida.

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Locally-based Green Roads has made its mark in the burgeoning Cannabidiol (CBD) oil business trade. CBD is a non-psychoactive byproduct of industrial hemp (a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant) known to have several health benefits for pain relief, inflammation, seizures, and more. According to Hemp Business Journal, U.S. sales for CBD-based products are poised to reach $450 million in 2020 and break $645 million by 2022.

UF/IFAS’ hemp pilot project recently joined the more than 30 land grant universities that have been conducting field studies with the agronomic crop since the 2014 Farm Bill allowed for such research effort. So, there is a steep learning curve. Green Roads team members lent their expertise during the three recent farmers’workshops hosted by UF/IFAS.

While the new industrial hemp endeavor was supported and encouraged by the state as well as university board of trustees, it was not officially allotted any funding. To move forward, project leaders are seeking sponsorships from the private sector. Zachary Brym, Assistant Professor of agronomy at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead and co-director of the project, explained the importance of acquiring more sponsorships. “Ideally, we would like to grow to four more locations across the state and test four additional objectives.”

In addition, UF/IFAS researchers also are eyeing propagation trials, which would compare the success of growing plants from seed to growing plants from rooted cuttings, the impact of indoor-growing approaches, testing with varieties that exhibit high CBD values, as well as explore the processing and product development of industrial hemp.

Brym is calling all parties interested in sponsoring the project to contact him at [email protected]. Information about supporting the program through a donation can acquired by contacting Cody Helmer, Director of UF/IFAS Advancement.