“Where Hemp is King?” – Meet the Newest Player in Georgia’s Agribusiness Future

Hemp has been used throughout history to advance technology, tools and economies. One of the earliest crops cultivated for textile fiber, hemp was widely used in the ancient world as the first example of human industry. But hemp’s success halted in America as interests shifted to cotton with the invention of the mechanical cotton gin.

Now, with the resurgence in research surrounding the hemp plant and its capabilities, the industrial market is predicted to exceed $270 million in the U.S. by 2025.  Much of this profit potential is driven by CBD production and processing, and could potentially generate an average of $45,000 in revenue per acre, compared to $773 per acre for corn.

What can you do with it?

Textiles, plastic alternatives, cosmetics, paper and building materials can be produced from the hemp plant, opening the opportunity for numerous industries to benefit from large scale production.

Textiles made from hemp are naturally lighter and more breathable and protects skin from harmful UV rays. Cosmetics containing hemp oil are ideal for sensitive skin and act as a humectant, penetrating deeply into the skin. Plastic produced from the hemp plant can be biodegradable and reduce CO2 emissions.

With over 25,000 diverse uses, the hemp plant will soon be widely grown, processed and sold across the country. Georgia has the potential to be a major player in this market because of its strong position in these existing industries, such as textile production. 

How Does Georgia Match Up?

Three key differentiators position Georgia for hemp success: climate, infrastructure and state policy.

Soil temperatures of 46-50 degrees are best for growing hemp, meaning that hemp could become an early season crop and grow before corn in farms with existing infrastructure in Georgia. The potential growing season for hemp is longer in Georgia than other states because of its climate. Additionally, the average pH of Georgia soil is ideal for growing hemp, which thrives in well-aerated soil with a pH of 6 or greater.

Farmers across the state are already set up with the important infrastructure and equipment to farm hemp, meaning the growth of the industry could happen quickly once production begins. Farmers with equipment to produce other crops like corn and soybeans will have an easier time adapting to the production of hemp with little practice because of its similarity in production and ease of growth.

The policy and business climate are exceptionally supportive as well. “The state of Georgia, even with a budget cut overall, really believes in and supports its agriculture community. That’s not the case for all the states in the Southeast, so that’s a benefit for hemp here,” said Charlie McKenzie, VP of Operations at Harvest Connect. “It’s not just growers and farmers that benefit, but the entire state of Georgia.”

A Sustainable Crop

“It takes 60 years for an oak tree to grow enough to start utilizing the timber. With hemp, the same amount would grow in about 6 months,” explained Kevin Quirk, President and CEO of Harvest Connect.

“Plus, hemp is three times stronger than oak. And that’s just one example.” Utilizing hemp plants as fuel decreases buildup of carbon dioxide. Substituting hemp for lumber means faster turn-around, better paper and materials, and preservation of natural forests.

Additionally, the fast maturing plant requires little water and no pesticides, using its deep roots to decontaminate damaged soil by transforming toxins into harmless substances. Hemp offers farmers the ability to work more sustainably while turning higher profits and will continue to be recognized for its value moving into the future.

Whether hemp is grown on its own or integrated into existing crop rotation, its contribution to the Georgia economy can be significant.

Enter the Market with Wholistic Thinking

The value of hemp continues to reveal itself in sustainability and economic gains. Companies scramble to enter a market that will soon be overcrowded, illustrated by the 147% annualized growth rate from the past two years. The key to success is entering with intention.

Harvest Connect is building relationships across the entire supply chain – from farming to processing to distribution and sales. The company aims to become a reliable producer utilized by large brands across the country.

Curating a team of professionals experienced in quality control and compliance gives Harvest Connect another advantage in the growing field of competitors. The team’s expertise with large-scale quality control and regulated operations prepares it to expand quickly when the opportunity arises — as it soon will. Quirk’s expertise in navigating FDA regulations and experience with large brands places Harvest Connect ahead of competitors, a valuable advantage in an emerging industry.

Building a Brand Based on Trust

Eventually, industries will integrate hemp and CBD into existing products as the plant’s value is recognized. The hemp and CBD industry, while new, is not immune to competition. The allure of a sustainable, “quick-money” opportunity will flood the market initially. Surviving long term will come back to what every industry relies on: brand.

From seed to sale with Graceleaf and CBD Store and More, Harvest Connect looks to the future. Harvest Connect maintains a firm commitment to paying fair prices that recognize the farmers that produce hemp as important partners essential to the long-term success of the entire industry. Our focus on the Georgia farmer and consumer connect us to our goal of helping people and will continue to guide us as we move forward.

Supplying larger brands with hemp will require strict quality and testing guidelines that are not yet in place. Production groups that do not set up their operations to comply with these guidelines from the beginning will have a harder time making important partnerships to expand the hemp industry.

Harvest Connect understands that it takes disciplined operations and expertise to realize the tremendous potential for hemp. “You have to have a good product, you have to be efficient in producing it and you have to have a place that you can sell it to someone that believes in what you’re doing,” said McKenzie. “If you have all those pieces, I think you can have a great hemp processing business here in Georgia. If you’re doing those things, you can compete on a national scale.”

Harvest Connect has maintained involvement since the very beginning of the hemp industry in Georgia, joining in conversations about policies to shape the industry to benefit all. Moving forward, hemp will become a ubiquitous commodity, used in industries across the nation. From manufacturing to textiles to cosmetics, hemp is poised to become an integral member of the Georgia farm economy — and Harvest Connect is prepared to help it see the biggest success possible. 

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