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April 14, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Harvest Analytical Lab founded to serve burgeoning market of hemp growers

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Any successful entrepreneur sees a market opportunity and quickly seizes on the opening before someone else does.

That’s certainly the case with Harvest Analytical Lab (HAL), a new West Knoxville start-up that was founded to serve the burgeoning market of farmers in Tennessee and the Southeast who want to grow industrial hemp. The number licensed to grow the product in the Volunteer State alone has increased tenfold in a year, jumping from 226 in 2018 to over 2,700 in 2019.

What’s the driver for such a dramatic increase? It’s the federal “2018 Farm Bill” that removed an eight-decade ban on growing hemp, a form of Cannabis sativa and in the same plant species as marijuana. The law also further defined hemp to include all parts of the plant including derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids.

Today, growing industrial hemp is perfectly legal if it originates through a state-approved plan, and Tennessee enacted appropriate legislation that was called for in the “2014 Farm Bill.” However, as we learned during a recent interview with several of HAL’s principals, the enabling legislation also came with a number of requirements that must be considered by potential growers. First and foremost is the content.

“The hemp must have less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol),” Mike Goodrich tells us in describing the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects. He’s the Founder of Cornerstone Analytical Labs and a founding member of HAL.

HAL, which is officially launching the new lab this month as the growing season begins, will be offering a range of tests to make sure that growers and the product they produce are compliant with the new federal legislation as well as Tennessee laws.

“Our lab’s effort will be on par with anything on the West Coast, once it is fully operational” Sal Pastor, HAL Director, told us. Those tests start with ensuring the hemp is below the 0.3 percent threshold and include ICP-MS (testing for the presence of metals); GC-MS (testing for the presence of Terpenes and residual solvents); LC-MS (evaluation of the presence of pesticides and mycotoxins), and LC ( providing cannabinoid profile and THC content).  The lab will analyze Hemp extracts, products made with those extracts, as well as the soil, water and other materials used for the growing and producing the desired products.

It’s first and foremost about ensuring that the hemp is safe for use in any number of applications.

“Every strain of hemp has a different profile,” Goodrich says. This is a result of factors like humidity, soil type, and temperature. As such, different strains are best used with certain products.

For tobacco farmers adversely impacted by the decline in demand, industrial hemp represents a new crop with tremendous upside potential. The global industrial hemp market size is expected to reach $10.6 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research Inc., and the market is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent.

Many readers are probably familiar with hemp oil as a commonly used ingredient in many cosmetics such as body lotions, soaps and shampoos. You may not know that it is also used in textiles, bioplastics, building materials, and even car door panels.

“This field is open to every entrepreneur to create new products,” Pastor said. Underscoring his point was the fact that there were over 100 exhibitor booths at the “Southern Hemp Expo” held last September in Nashville.

“We want to create a one-stop-shop . . . from a lab for testing raw materials to final product” Pastor says.

HAL is planning to build a new laboratory in Hardin Valley that is expected to open within a year. For now, it is located just off Dutchtown Road.

Goodrich is bringing his laboratory analytical expertise to the new venture. When he was first approached, he considered but quickly dismissed being involved under the Cornerstone brand that we spotlighted in this recent article.

“It would have been a new market for Cornerstone, but it was not a good fit due to the scale of the operation, large capital and staff requirements,” Goodrich explained. “Harvest Analytical has committed to building a world class operation bringing in all the required resources. Launching a lab in just a few short months is not for the faint of heart.”

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