City Roots, Columbia’s urban farm, is in the hemp business.
The sustainable farm, known for its microgreens and mushrooms, has partnered with Lake City industrial hemp farm Brackish Solutions to grow seeds, organic clones and transplants in 45,000 square feet of greenhouses.
That would make the 8-acre farm in Rosewood the largest hemp greenhouse operation in the state. The new company formed by the partnership will be called Cannetics.
“As we speak we are building a dozen greenhouses,” said Eric McClam, who owns City Roots with his father, Robbie. “It will be the largest greenhouse operation in the state dedicated to hemp.”
Hemp is seen as a new cash crop for farmers in the Palmetto State. It has myriad uses from biomass for power plants to textiles to composites for auto and aircraft parts. It also can be used to produce CBD oil to treat maladies such as chronic pain and seizures.
Hemp is a cousin of marijuana in the cannabis family and looks the same, but it doesn’t have a high enough level of the psychoactive compound THC to get you high.
The weed is expected to thrive in South Carolina because of its similarity to another Palmetto State cash crop, tobacco. The S.C. General Assembly is also debating whether to legalize medical marijuana.
At City Roots, several greenhouses are already filled with “mother stock” — hemp plants that will be used to supply cuttings that will eventually be planted in City Roots’ 80-acre farm on Bluff Road or sold to other farmers.
“We want to be the largest hemp operation in the state,” McClam said of his parternship with Brackish Solutions.
City Roots will continue to grow its microgreens and mushrooms, hold farm-to-table events and conduct educational programs, he said. But the farm plans to pull back on some of its organic vegetables.
Together, Cannetics, City Roots, and Brackish Solutions hope to employ over 40 employees in the next 24 months.
Last year, Congress legalized hemp production across the nation, opening up hemp cultivation to an unlimited number of farmers. South Carolina had conducted a pilot program of hemp cultivation beginning with 20 permits issued to farmers in 2017 and doubling that number to 40 last year.
This week the S.C. House lifted the cap on permits to conform with federal law. The S.C. Senate is expected to follow suit.
Farmers would still have to be permitted by the S.C. Department of Agriculture.
Brackish Solutions founding partner Jason Eargle said the company is currently expanding its CBD and fiber processing operations to multiple locations in the Carolinas.
Cannetics will provide hemp seeds, organic transplants and clones to permitted growers and pilot program participants in South Carolina and North Carolina, with possible expansion throughout the Southeast, he said.
Brackish Solutions will then buy back hemp crops and offer post-harvest CBD extraction and formulation services for retailers.
In conjunction with providing seeds, organic clones and transplants to grow industrial hemp, Cannetics will offer a range of services for industrial hemp farms.
It also will offer a “Seed to Sale” App with greenhouse plans, procedures and harvesting information for hemp farmers. The app was created in collaboration with University of South Carolina’s Master of Business School with plans to launch this spring.