Nearly 40 Kentucky hemp farmers, processors and product developers jammed into a small conference room at the University of Louisville, sharing their ideas and obstacles they’re facing as part of Kentucky’s recently revived hemp industry. UofL’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy hosted the forum to seek input on how it could help industrial hemp flourish in Kentucky. The Conn Center recently planted its first patch of hemp plants for research and plans to provide data and support for local industry, according to assistant director Andrew Marsh.
Marsh says UofL plans to research new uses for hemp including fuels, fertilizer and oils, while also helping farmers come up with more efficient economic models for growing and harvesting their hemp crops. At the forum, the founder of Louisville-based Victory Hemp Foods, Chad Rosen, cautioned UofL officials to avoid duplicating the hemp research already being done by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “There’s low hanging fruit that UofL can help us with,” Rosen said. Conn Center director Mahendra Sunkara agreed, assuring the group that Kentucky’s two research universities are working hand-in-hand on hemp-related projects.
The CEO of Kentucky Hemp Ventures, David Barhorst, praised UofL.
“UofL is the only university in the U.S. that has its engineering school doing hemp research,” Barhorst said. “So when it comes to chemical processes that are needed to upgrade and further the industry this is the perfect place to do it.”
Other farmers at the forum expressed concerns about problems growing hemp in Kentucky, weeds, a lack of information sharing among themselves and the long-term economic viability of hemp without more products, markets and uses for hemp. Most agreed they needed to meet in the same room more often, sharing their successes and failures with each other.