Before we dive into the innovation news, we have to first take a quick botany and history lesson.
While most might associate the cannabis sativa plant with the marijuana industry, one variety, hemp, was historically an important and sustainable American crop.
Traditionally used for clothing, rope, paper, and oil-based fuels for lighting, hemp was deemed a Schedule I drug under the 1970’s Controlled Substances Act. This started a thirty-year movement to distance industrial hemp from its marijuana cousin. That differentiation came in the form of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Okay, now for the technology and innovation part of this story.
Today, industrial hemp can be used in building materials, textiles, automotive parts, and even in electronics. But the production and the supply chain of industrial hemp have caused issues for farmers and consumers alike.
Alabama-based BastCore has proprietary technology to help separate the bast fiber from the wood, or hurd, part of the plant. Its decortication and degumming technologies are designed to make hemp processing more sustainable, efficient, and more accessible to a variety of products and industries.
Austin Bryant, BastCore’s Managing Director, told Hypepotamus that the company is taking a two-pronged approach to improving hemp manufacturing.
“A farmer grows [the hemp] and then we process it through our proprietary technology and sell that material directly to a spinner or a mill, who then spins that material into a cone of yarn.”
A weaver then turns hemp into various woven and non-woven materials. For Bryant, BastCore’s technology can help create a true “farm to fabric” supply chain that is missing in American manufacturing.
FARM TO FABRIC SUPPLY CHAIN
Sustainability goals are often at the mercy of supply chain realities. Bryant told Hypepotamus that many clothing brands want to tell the story that they are “grown, harvested, spun, woven, and sold here domestically.”
But raw materials are more often shipped around the world during the assembly process. “That’s problematic for two reasons. One, it eats into your margins. And it’s not a truly American story.”
Because of the variety of use cases for the product, Bryant sees BastCore serving a unique and growing market. “The market has been chasing CBD for many years and that is now over flooded. But the market is really starting to wake up to the fact that the plant can have much greater utilization with hemp fiber.”
Bryant grew up in Macon, Georgia, but has been out on the West Coast for the last 16 years.
He’s moved back with his family to Alabama as BastCore continues to grow.
Last week the company announced a $2.8 million oversubscribed Series A funding round, led by San Francisco-based Poseidon Asset Management.
Poseidon’s Managing Director, Morgan Paxhia, said that the investment in BastCore expands the fund’s focus. “Our capital has helped to create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues and we believe this economic energy is coming to the US industrial hemp industry. We have limited our exposure to U.S. CBD as we saw too much money flooding into that space, but industrial hemp for textiles, automotive, construction, etc., are many multiples the size of CBD, with much greater plant utilization,” added Paxhia.
“BastCore has developed innovative industry-leading technology capable of supporting and transforming massive industries. This is a great American story in the making.”