Hemp Oil Canada, which produces hempseed oil, hemp protein and hemp flour, announced the construction of a $13.6 million plant in Ste. Agathe Sept. 26.
President Shaun Crew said the new facility would triple Hemp Oil Canada’s existing production capacity of three million pounds a year.
“This will boost us to well over nine million lb., once we enter the facility,” Crew said during a news conference.
“Within the facility there is still room for more equipment, so growth is inevitable.”
The federal government is providing a “repayable contribution” of $4.6 million to Hemp Oil Canada to build the new plant.
MP Ted Falk said the funding makes sense because the North American retail market for hemp products is more than $500 million a year.
“Hemp is taking off in this country, and one of the big reasons is right here in Ste. Agathe,” he said.
Canada is the largest producer of hempseed and edible hemp byproducts in the world.
Crew has expanded the size of the Hemp Oil Canada processing plant in Ste. Agathe several times since founding the company in 1998.
The current project, now underway, will be the largest and most expensive expansion.
“The industry is maturing … hemp food ingredients are being utilized in all kinds of food products now, everything from hemp cereal, hemp ice cream to hemp nutrition bars,” said Crew, who wore a pair of hemp pants and hemp shoes to the news conference.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve had double digit growth every year. In the last two or three, that growth has been at least 50 percent per annum.”
Hemp Oil Canada is tapping into booming consumer demand for healthy food.
According to the company’s website, hempseed is a source of protein and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Hemp Oil Canada does not brand its products on grocery store shelves. Rather, it sells bulk hempseed, protein and oil to food manufacturers.
Crew said North America is the company’s largest market, but Hemp Oil Canada also sells hemp products to 30 other countries.
Hemp acres in Western Canada will likely need to increase to supply the Ste. Agathe plant. Canadian growers, mostly on the Prairies, planted 90,000 acres of hemp this year, up from 70,000 last year.
“We’ll be well over 100,000 mark for next year,” said Crew.
Processing companies contract nearly all of the acres, he added.
Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance president Russ Crawford said earlier this year that Canadian hemp acres could reach 250,000 by 2018.
Crew said the goal is realistic.
“Absolutely.… It (acreage) is definitely going to grow and grow significantly over the next couple of years,” he said.
“We’re seeing more and more major international food processing companies adopting hemp as an ingredient.”
Crew, who started the company 16 years ago with one expeller press to process hemp seed, said taking Hemp Oil Canada to this size took longer than expected.
“This is going totally according to plan, with the exception that it’s five years later than I thought,” he said.
“It took a little bit longer … to get people to understand what hemp foods are all about. It’s all about health, wellness and good food.”