Mile High Labs Extraction Partnership

Extraction, Mile High Labs

Shi Farms is excited to announce our CBD Extraction collaboration with Mile High Labs, based in Boulder, Colorado. Our partnership will help uncork the bottleneck in the CBD Processing portion of the Hemp Ingredient Supply Chain. We were recently featured in a Green Entrepreneur Magazine article which talks about the partnership and how it seeks to help our industry grow in a sustainable fashion.

Shi Farms in Green Entrepreneur

See some excerpts below and check out the full article here

After receiving its license to grow hemp, the team at Shi Farms planted hemp clones high in CBD in 40,000 square feet of greenhouses for the 2016 crop. Tending and harvesting that many plants requires a lot of work, but finding a reputable lab to process the harvest was perhaps the toughest problem of all, said Drew Ferguson, operations director for Shi Farms. “The biggest challenge was finding a way to extract (the oil) from all this material we had,” he said. “We’d drop this biomass off at labs and never hear back, or it took a long time or the end product was not good enough.”

Late in 2016 Ferguson and his partner, Steve Turetsky, met Mueller at Mile High Labs, which proved lucky for the 2017 crop. Shi Farms planted 15 acres of hemp for the 2017 crop. When it was time to harvest, each plant was cut down by hand and hauled to a barn to be hung for drying, then shucked by hand to remove the leaves and flowers for packing into some of the super sacks crowding the warehouse at Mile High Labs, a three-hour drive from the farm.

“John Deere doesn’t make a hemp harvester, at least not yet, and certainly not for the higher CBD hemp, so our whole team was out there cutting each plant, one by one,” said Ferguson.

The Shi Farms Cooperative has expanded rapidly since then. In 2018 the cooperative harvested 228 acres of hemp — 100 acres from clones on the farm in Pueblo and most of the rest from cooperating farms in Colorado, plus the harvest from two acres of hemp grown in the Hudson Valley of  New York under a pilot program. This year the acreage is expanding to roughly 1,200 acres — 228 acres at the farm in Pueblo, another 450 acres on other Colorado farms, 480 acres on five farms in Oklahoma and up to 100 acres on farms in New York and New Mexico. The harvests will all be processed at the Monster being assembled on the Shi Farm in Pueblo.

Ferguson said the arrangement with Mile High Labs encouraged farmers in the cooperative to plant more because they know their harvest has a buyer with a GMP certified facility. “It’s let us grow because we know we have the extractor on the other side,” he said. “I’ve met a ton of people gung ho to grow hemp but they want to know what to do with it afterwards. As Mile High grows and provides this extraction capability, the farmers will know they will have a customer.”

Mueller sees the potential for placing Monsters far and wide but plans an unhurried expansion. “The only real limiting factor is the global demand for CBD and we have not hit that yet,” he said. “We will put two of these (Monsters) out there and see what the response is. People are starting to grow hemp all over the world but we don’t want to put 50 out there before we know the size of the market.”

Though the market for CBD is booming, the price of CBD is dropping, which is hardly surprising considering the amount of hemp being planted. Ferguson, prior to Shi Farms, worked for Dixie Brands, an edible company, which he said was paying between $15,000 and $20,000 for a kilo of CBD when prices were at the peak. A kilo of high quality now sells for around $7,000, Ferguson said.

That’s still big money but the trend is clear, says both he and Mueller. Neither, however, is worried. Very high prices for CBD and the hemp it is derived from made it possible for processors to get started, even if they had to rely on improvised equipment, and gave farmers a sufficient profit margin to make the switch to hemp, even if they had to harvest it with 19th century methods. The hemp oil flowing from the Monster can be processed to distill any of the dozens of cannabinoids it contains.

About 90 percent of each hemp plant, by weight, is leftover biomass after it is processed for oil, said Ferguson. The team at Shi Farms (“shi” doubles as an acronym for “sustainable hemp initiative) currently works the remaining biomass into the farm’s dense clay soil but Ferguson believes it will eventually find ever more profitable secondary uses.

“Can we turn into pellets for stoves? Can we spread it back on the field? There is a lot of opportunity with this leftover biomass,” he said. “I’m guessing we’ll soon see companies collect this from farms to monetize somehow.”

A tantalizing prospect for farmers is a hemp strain that yields flowers high in CBD (or whatever cannabinoid future consumers demand) and leftover fiber useful for bioplastics, paper, textiles or other products. “Those ancillary products are the future of the hemp industry,” Ferguson said.

Read the full article – Shi Farms – Mile High Labs

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Steven Turetsky

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