Florida A&M University (FAMU) has obtained its first two planting permits as part of its public-private partnerships with Sunshine Hemp and Green Earth Cannaceuticals, two of three companies with which the University has signed contracts for the research of industrial hemp.
The move comes as the University has finalized a contract with Future Farm Technologies of British Columbia, Canada, the third of three companies approved by the FAMU Board of Trustees in January 2019.
“Like our Medical Marijuana Educational and Research Initiative, our industrial hemp partnerships offer Florida A&M University an opportunity for education, research and innovation in a fledgling industry,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “Our outstanding students, faculty and staff will contribute to the success of this initiative, which will benefit our industry partners along with Florida farmers and citizens.”
Hemp-based products include beverages, food, cosmetics, clothing, paper and building materials. In 2018, the hemp industry generated $1.1 billion in revenues.
FAMU obtained its first planting permit for Sunshine Hemp of St. Cloud, Fla., from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) on July 15, 2019. The permit allows the company to cultivate, test and produce certified hemp seeds acclimated to Florida’s climate and soil. The company also plans to create mechanized harvest equipment along with crop drying and stabilizing biomass storage.
“We’re in business,” said Charles Weatherford, Ph.D., FAMU’s interim associate vice president for research. “This is a giant step forward. We expect to be operational by the end of August.”
One of five planting permits for Green Earth of Newberry, Fla., has also just been approved by FDACS. Under its agreement with FAMU, Green Earth will investigate Hemp’s potential as an invasive species in Florida.
In addition, Green Earth will conduct testing to ensure proper tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. THC produces euphoria, but hemp has less than 3 percent THC and does not produce a high. Green Earth will also identify hemp plant varieties capable of thriving in various Florida environments and will develop management practices to make hemp production commercially viable.
In its partnership with FAMU, Future Farm Technologies has proposed to conduct soil analysis in association with University staff. Farm Future Technologies will begin seed germination at the company’s Apopka greenhouse then move the crop to FAMU’s Quincy facility. A public outreach program will be conducted with FAMU staff to market industrial hemp as beneficial and profitable for Florida farmers and growers.
“We are in the process of obtaining additional planting permits from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,” Weatherford said.
The 2018 Farm Bill and the State of Florida hemp legislation cleared the way for FAMU, the University of Florida and other universities to forge ahead with industrial hemp production in partnership with private companies. Partners are also encouraged to conduct as much research and commercial production as is feasible on FAMU property in Quincy or Brooksville.