Industrial hemp processor applies to open shop in former Moss building

By Ethan Andrews | Mar 20, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews This building at 248 Northport Ave. in Belfast has been home to several frozen food processors. It soon could be used to grow and process industrial hemp.

Belfast — A large industrial hemp growing and processing facility could be up and running on Route 1 by summer.

Future Farm Maine LLC has applied to the city for a change of use permit at 248 Northport Ave. that would allow the company to propagate and process industrial hemp. The building was previously used by tensioned-fabric canopy maker Moss Inc. and Coastal Farms Food Processing. More recently, it has been home to blueberry processor Midcoast Frozen.

In February, Future Farm Maine, a subsidiary of Canada-based Future Farm Technologies, signed a two-year lease for 12,960 square feet of the 60,000-square-foot building, with an option to buy, according to an announcement on the company's website. The announcement specified only that the facility would be in Maine; however, the details match a proposal recently submitted to the Belfast Planning Office.

Future Farm Maine plans to use the Belfast building for the beginning and end of the industrial hemp production cycles. The company hopes to propagate 250,000 seeds under LED lights, growing them into six-inch seedlings over a period of several months. The seedlings would be moved by tractor-trailer to a licensed industrial hemp farm elsewhere in Maine for the summer to be raised into mature plants, cut and dried. The dried plants then would be returned to the Belfast facility to be processed and refined to extract CBD oil and high-value isolate for making edibles, creams and lotions.

Future Farm Technologies in January touted the advantages of the Belfast building, including high ceilings for vertical growing and a turnkey commercial kitchen.

The company previously acquired a 120-acre industrial hemp farm and signed a lease for 100 acres with an option to lease up to an additional 1,000 acres of farmland in Maine, according to the January announcement.

Future Farm Technologies has projects throughout North America, including California, Florida and Maryland. The company’s business model, according to its website, is based on indoor growing of various types of plants, with a focus on cannabis.

A representative connected to the application submitted to the city did not immediately respond to an email seeking more information about the Belfast facility.

Despite its being a relatively large operation and a new industry for Belfast, City Planner Wayne Marshall said the type of use proposed by Future Farm is similar enough to other businesses that have occupied the space to bypass a review by the Planning Board.

"We're viewing it as being a change of one industrial use to another industrial use," Marshall said. The matter falls under the jurisdiction of the city's code enforcement officer.

Industrial hemp is bred to have very little of the psychoactive ingredient THC that gives marijuana, its cousin in the cannabis family, its high. Future Farm Technologies anticipates the plants grown in Belfast facility would have .03-percent THC or less; marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes typically has between 10 and 100 times that amount.

The industrial hemp plants, however, will have higher-than-normal amounts of cannabidiol hemp oil, or CBD oil, which is used to treat medical conditions including inflammation and anxiety.

In its January announcement, Future Farm Technologies said the market for CBD is likely to expand following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's acceptance of an application by GW Pharmaceuticals for Epidiolex.

The drug, which contains CBD oil, is estimated to be worth $2.2 billion in worldwide sales by 2025, according to three Goldman Sachs analysts cited in the announcement. Another source, Hemp Business Journal, put U.S. sales of CBD at $1.1 billion by 2020.

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