Florida universities partner with cannabis sector in hemp research initiative

Mar 18, 2019

Florida A&M University and the University of Florida selected seven cannabis partners to fund and participate in a hemp research pilot program being conducted at both schools. A total of eleven applicants applied to be partners, including Future Farm Technologies (CSE:FFT) (OTCQB:FFRMF), Green Earth Cannaceuticals, and Sunshine Hemp Inc.

What will Florida’s pilot program look like?

The hemp research pilot program intends to address the needs of the hemp industry. Its scope is broad, encompassing everything from soil analysis to the economic effects that the hemp industry could have on the state of Florida. According to a research presentation done by Florida A&M, the top three partners listed above will each have their own research projects and goals.

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For Sunshine Hemp, which received top ratings in the schools’ vetting process, research will focus on extraction methods, planting techniques, and investigations on which hemp genetics are suitable for Florida climates. With Green Earth, Florida A&M will investigate hemp’s potential as an invasive species in Florida, while with Future Farms, the school will conduct soil analysis and seed germination at the company’s Apopka greenhouse before moving the crop to the university’s facility in Quincy.

"It is fundamentally important to our program to serve the diverse interests of the industry through objective research," Zachary Brym, the coordinator of the research program clarified in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. “One of the ways we can prove that outwardly is to promote a collaboration tone and establish multiple partners and program sponsors."

What does it take to participate in a research program of this size?

Research of this extent, with this many commercial partners, was close to impossible until Florida state legislators changed their tune in 2017. Then-Gov. Rick Scott signed the Industrial Hemp Project bill into law, giving universities permission to grow and study industrial hemp before it was commercially legalized in last year’s farm bill.

But now that it is legal, hemp research can expand to develop more commercial partnerships, more public outreach programs, and better management practices that will help hemp become more commercially viable.

“The significance of this legislation cannot be understated, as it paves the way for the industry to expand,” said Jim Cincotta, the manager of Future Farm’s operations in Florida, after Future Farms was chosen as a finalist. “It will allow for in-depth exploration of the myriad of applications of this remarkable plant.”

In order to be chosen as a partner, companies had to apply and pass the universities’ strict vetting process. Both schools considered each company’s familiarity with federal and state laws as well as what incentives they could bring to the university programs. All partners are required to fund 100 percent of the research program and involve smaller and underserved Florida farms with the research activities.

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Last October, Green Roads, LLC invested $1.3 million in the first phase of the universities’ research. The initial investment covered the facilities and resources needed to jumpstart a pilot program of this size, but Brym pointed out that the schools would need more partners and more financial support to research all of their intended objectives. That was when both universities started looking for commercial partners willing to participate and further fund the pilot program.

At the end of two years, the schools will report their findings back to the state. Florida A&M is encouraging its partners to continue working together beyond the contract deadline.

And since the state recently authorized a patient’s right to smoke medical marijuana, it is likely that these partnerships will continue. Cannabis investors and connoisseurs alike can both benefit from a surplus of research.

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