SYDNEY — A three-metre tall, leafy green crop of hemp should be growing on nearly seven hectares of remediated land on the former coke oven site in Sydney this summer.
Health Canada awarded Sydney-based company Highland Hemp an industrial hemp commercial licence for the production of hemp oil and related products.
The experimental crop is part of a venture launched by local businessman Parker Rudderham to determine whether commercial hemp production is a viable business opportunity here.
Hemp is known as one of the most hardy and versatile plants in the world.
The plant is not to be confused with the close relative of the herb cannabis, which is widely used as marijuana.
Industrial hemp plants contain 0.3 per cent or less of tetrhydrocannobinol (THC) — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — in their leaves and flowering parts.
“If somebody tried to smoke it, it would be no different than trying to smoke a banana peel or an old leather shoe. It’s not gonna do a thing for you,” Rudderham, president and CEO of Highland Hemp, said in an interview Tuesday.
In the spring, the plan is to lift the grassy sod and add another 12 centimetres of topsoil on the 20 cm of soil already on the remediated lands, which was once one of the most toxic sites in the country following a century of steelmaking.
Seeding and cultivating a crop will be contracted out to a local farmer, Rudderham said, and once ready for harvest in the fall, the hemp seeds will be collected and cold-pressed for its oil.
“We’re going to be selling it in two forms — capsule and whole oil.”
There’s a major demand for hemp oil products in Europe.
“They’re using it in cooking, in salads and so on.”
“We just see endless possibilities with hemp,” he said.
The capital costs for the experimental crop is estimated at about $500,000, Rudderham said.
As the president and CEO of Pharmacy Wholesale Services Inc., Rudderham said his company would buy all of the hemp oil produced by Highland Hemp.
“It will be up to Pharmacy Wholesale to go out to create that additional market for that product. It puts this company, Highland Hemp, in pretty good stead. It’s good to have a company that can sell everything they make.”
Pharmacy Wholesale Services sells to approximately 27,000 pharmacies in the U.S., and does business with 104 countries around the world.