Ohio Company Signs Deal To Grow Hemp for Bioplastic

A hemp producer based in Dayton, Ohio has a new customer for its crop after the firm signed a deal with a processor in nearby Michigan to provide raw material for hemp-based bioplastics. Under its new contract with Detroit-based Heartland Industries, Ohio Hemp Company will provide hemp fiber to produce bioplastic that will eventually become auto parts manufactured by a Belgian firm.

Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation to legalize hemp in the state in 2019, the year after Congress legalized the crop on the national level with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. TJ Richardson and Justin Helt, the owners of Ohio Hemp Company, were among the first farmers in the state to farm the crop. They planted 11,000 cannabinoid hemp plants in 2020 to take advantage of the then-booming CBD market.

After the CBD market began to retract, Richardson and Helt pivoted to growing hemp plants bred to produce grain and fiber, rather than CBD and other cannabinoids. Because of the versatility of hemp, the company still had opportunities with the crop to explore.

“My grandpa always says that hemp is the most exciting new thing in agriculture since soybeans in the 50s,” Helt told agriculture news source Farm and Dairy. “That gives you a little perspective on how often something like this comes along. We see a huge trajectory path for this crop to grow in the state.”

Richardson and Helt knew from the time they launched their operation that there are a multitude of uses for hemp. After transitioning away from CBD hemp, the partners began looking for businesses near Ohio that were using the crop in their products. Before long, Richardson and Helt discovered Detroit-based Heartland Industries, a hemp processing facility founded in 2020. In 2022, the company began a partnership to provide hemp fiber to Ravago, a Belgian bioplastics manufacturer. 

Tim Almond, chairman and co-founder of Heartland Industries, said that from the beginning, his company and the farmers it works with faced challenges as they learned to grow and work with the crop.

“It had been illegal for 80 years, a lot of the knowledge and planting equipment has been either lost or transitioned to corn, soybean and wheat,” said Almond. “Farmers didn’t know what technology would work. So we had to understand how to plant the crop all over again.”

Heartland Industries uses the hemp fiber grown by Ohio Hemp Company and other farmers in the Midwest to manufacture small hemp pellets known as nurdles. After this initial processing, the nurdles are transported to Ravago, where they are mixed with plastic nurdles to produce a bioplastic composed of 70% plastic and 30% hemp fiber. The bioplastic is then used to manufacture parts for the auto industry.

“Everybody wants to have a product that’s better for the environment, but it’s hard to do it if it compromises the cost and it compromises performance,” Almond said. “We found a happy balance with the plastic manufacturing world where we can use this ingredient at 30% in the recipe, and we could see cost savings, we can see weight reduction, we can see performance maintaining the same, but most importantly we can see the reduction in carbon footprint.”

To maximize efficiency, Heartland Industries originally began partnering with farmers in Michigan to source the hemp the company needs. But as the hemp fiber market grew, it also started working with growers in nearby states including Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

In 2022, Ohio Hemp Company began growing and researching dual-purpose hemp that produces both fiber and grain. Last year, the company grew 100 acres of the crop. Thanks to the new contract with Heartland Industries, Helt and Richardson plan to plant 200 acres of dual-purpose hemp this year.

The hemp grower’s new agreement is a purchase contract to provide hemp fiber to Heartland Industries on a non-binding, year-over-year basis. Ohio Hemp Company is in the process of adding new infrastructure to support its expanding operations. The firm is building a new processing and storage facility, as well as researching new varieties of hemp.

Helt said that the new contract with Heartland Industries and other developments at his operation are signs of the growing demand for hemp in the region.

“It means everything to the growth of this company and to the growth of the industry in (Ohio) to have a major processor (with) a great demand,” said Helt. “All the different pieces of the puzzle are finally coming into place to create an entire industry from front end to back end, from the plant in the field all the way to the end consumer. It’s beautiful to see.”

The post Ohio Company Signs Deal To Grow Hemp for Bioplastic appeared first on High Times.

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