New Laws Present New Opportunities

- Christian Burney

Could we be a missing piece of the puzzle? The puzzle being Colorado’s hemp value chain. As I chewed on this question, I started online research and trying to spark conversations within the team here at Oliver, but it wasn’t until a farmer came to us in January and asked if they could use some floor space at one of our manufacturing facilities for testing different equipment.

You see, even though hemp itself is hundreds of years old, as an industry it’s in its infancy. It wasn’t until the 2014 Farm Bill that the growth of industrial hemp was legalized in states that regulated the crop. It’s really like the wild, wild West. You’ve got people trying to deregulate, you’ve got people trying to regulate, you’ve got people trying to grow, you’ve got people trying to process, and you’ve got rogues who are just winging it and hoping for the best. But all of this comes with a lot of risk, because state and federal laws send mixed signals when it comes to financing, crop insurance, USDA’s farm programs and land use, and moving seed and end product across state lines.

When you look at the value chain (breeders/seed producers, growers, processors, and buyers), the last two are great big fat question marks. It’s thought there are a great number of buyers; however, without being able to process the hemp, it’s really hard to gauge true market demand. And that’s why Colorado hemp growers have bales stacked up in their barns or fields — they don’t have a way to process it.

On the seed side of things, there are about 13 groups in Colorado alone working as breeders and seed producers. They, too, are uncertain of what types of equipment already exist for seed processing and how they handle hemp seed.

Enter Oliver Manufacturing. Since that initial conversation in January, we’ve sparked up many more conversations with breeders and seed growers, and members of the Colorado Hemp Co-op to further explore how we might help add to the puzzle.

We’ve been working with a few local hemp producers and using our Westrup machines to test and demonstrate the processing and conditioning capabilities of hemp seed.

Right now, it’s lots of meetings and talking with people to find out what their needs are and explain who we are and what we do. Through these meetings and working with the Colorado Hemp Co-op, we’ve been able to work with hemp seed, get experience with it and find out what works and what doesn’t. So far, we’ve produced fantastic results with our Westrup and Oliver equipment.

Hemp seed is incredibly easy to separate. The healthy seeds are dark brown, and any underdeveloped seeds are light green, so you can visually see if the equipment did its job. We’ve not observed any troubles whatsoever in processing hemp seed.

We will be attending a few expos in the coming months and continue to engage with the people of this blossoming industry face to face.

There’s a great deal of people interested in the market but just aren’t sure what tools they need or what is even available. Part of what we’re doing is just letting them know that tools do exist to separate, process and condition seed. It really is like a puzzle and finding what pieces fit where.