The Word from Western Canada: Hemp is Here to Stay

Two new Alberta hemp facilities and a combined $147 million investment will position growers to take advantage of new markets.

Hemp’s potential as a viable cash crop just got a big boost.

Two new processing facilities, backed by a significant investment from the Alberta government, will support hemp as a valuable new cash crop for growers in Western Canada.

Blue Sky Hemp Ventures, a global leader in hemp whole plant utilization, will receive a grant of $500,000 to advance a proposed $75 million hemp food processing facility in Alberta. In addition, a grant of up to $400,000 is earmarked for INCA, a globally recognized hemp manufacturing company. INCA will use the funding to build a new $72 million hemp processing facility, also in Alberta.

Hemp burst on the Canadian agriculture scene about a decade ago but has struggled to expand beyond a niche market. With this investment, hemp now has the potential to become a significant commercial prairie crop. It’s still early days – like corn in Western Canada 20 years ago – but hemp has enormous upside potential.

Western Canadian producers, who are always on the lookout for an agronomically competitive crop that brings similar or better ROI than canola, wheat, and other commodities they’re growing now, will relish this new opportunity.

The reason hemp isn’t grown across more acres in Western Canada isn’t that it’s difficult. On the contrary, as crops go, it’s relatively easy to grow and requires very few inputs. What’s been missing is a facility that can make products the market demands without wasting a substantial amount of the plant.

The key to hemp success – seeing it as more than a one-trick pony

With the construction of this facility, Blue Sky Ventures will avoid the trap that has shackled other hemp processors: fighting for a slice of the current hemp market when there are much larger markets available. The hemp market is currently estimated at $100 million worldwide. The plant-based oil market is at least $80 billion. The market for plant-based proteins is another $50 billion. Which pond would you rather cast your line into?

Blue Sky Hemp Ventures logo
Blue Sky Hemp Ventures logo

Until now, hemp processors have mainly used only one part of the plant — the seeds for food or the flowers for CBD, leaving behind substantial waste. Blue Sky Ventures has developed a process for “whole-plant utilization.” As a result, they can harness the full value of the grain for superfoods, flowers for CBD extraction, and the stalks for a wide variety of industrial products.

These two processing facilities in Alberta will open the door to big new markets by fully unlocking the potential of hemp. For food and cosmetic markets, Blue Sky Ventures can process hemp proteins with high concentration without using nasty solvents, while maintaining all of the health properties of hemp seed oil (a perfect ratio of omega-3 and -6), nine essential amino acids, and various minerals and nutrients.

The company can also produce cold-pressed purified hemp seed oil with a smoke point above 400°F with three times the fatty acid content of other high-temp cooking oils. That makes hemp seed oil more than just something to drizzle on a salad – it takes it into mainstream commercial cooking applications.

Once completed, the facility in Alberta will produce 35,000 mt/year of innovative hemp seed oil protein concentrate and hemp seed oil products for use in cosmetics and food applications. At full capacity, the state-of-the-art facility will be able to process 5,500 tonnes of hemp grain and over 400,000 kg of hemp biomass for CBD.

Expanding hemp crops is good for Canadian growers, the economy, and the environment

Hemp is already proven as a viable crop for growers and well suited for Western Canada. Blue Sky Ventures expects demand to reach 70,000 acres of hemp in Alberta after the completion of just the initial phase of construction. Blue Sky already contracts 8,000 acres of prime farmland in Western Canada.

That’s good for growers and the planet. A hemp crop cleans the soil and needs little to no pesticides or herbicides. In addition, by using the whole hemp plant, the crop becomes a planet-friendly alternative for a range of industrial products from plastics to concrete.

Harvesting hemp in Western Canada
Harvesting hemp in Western Canada

The challenge with broad-acre farmed industrial hemp is that large volumes of plant material have very low potency of CBD. Blue Sky’s biomass processing system is an extremely cost-effective way to get CBD value from the plant while preserving grain and stalks for food and fibre applications.

Whole-plant utilization is the key. The company will use any waste from processing to produce energy to run the plant. Between whole-plant utilization and the facility design, products will be made with a negative carbon footprint. Add in the contribution of growers who grow the hemp, and the result is the sequestration of large amounts of CO2.

Blue Sky is one of the first hemp processors to take the whole plant utilization approach, showing their commitment to sustainable, zero-waste practices and driving value for customers, stakeholders and the planet.

The company is headquartered in Calgary and has operations in Rosetown, Saskatchewan and Saskatoon. Blue Sky is a private Canadian company rapidly emerging as a world leader in whole plant utilization for hemp superfoods, CBD and sustainable industrial products.

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