The hype around industrial hemp is at a fever pitch – and for good reason. Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill ended the longstanding prohibition of the crop, opening up new opportunities for growers and related industries. Earlier this month, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1020, establishing a local hemp program and giving the state’s fledgling industrial hemp pilot project more momentum. Eager investors are helping in that regard, too. Ft. Lauderdale-based Green Point Research recently signed a material transfer agreement for the UF/IFAS-led pilot project, which included the donation of 200,000 hemp seeds, 100 living plants, and more. The total investment will round out at more than $250,000.
In addition, the hemp biomass originator and processing company, which also has operations in South America, seeded the endowment through the Hemp Industries Association of Florida with a donation of $30,000. According to Green Point Research officials, it aims to help conduct a full life-cycle analysis of the hemp plant in Florida, including indoor cloning, propagation, and growth studies, as well as high-CBD field trials.
The mission behind UF/IFAS’ Hemp Pilot Project is to identify the best hemp varieties for the region as well as best measures for growing and reproduction. The project also aims to identify how existing farming equipment and operations can adapt to assist in hemp production.
UF/IFAS obtained special hemp permits to import Green Point Research’s hemp materials and to participate in cultivation and research. In early April, researchers planted the hemp seeds from Green Point Research and began testing with material in preparation for upcoming field trials.
On the commercial growing side, there are still some political hurdles ahead before that can take root. Holly Bell, Florida’s Director or Cannabis, anticipates the state’s first real industrial hemp crop in 2020.
In the meantime, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is hosting hemp workshops later this month in Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Tallahassee to provide opportunities to interact with stakeholders in the hemp industry, including growers, processors, lab owners, manufacturers, and retailers, as well as FDACS officials.