Murray State officials on Wednesday ceremonially introduced five foundational partners that have made major contributions to the new Hutson School of Agriculture Center for Agricultural Hemp.
The partners are CV Sciences, GenCanna, Vertical Wellness, Fibonacci (HempWood) and Unified Agriculture Holdings. Representatives from these companies were introduced at the event.
Assistant Dean Brian Parr said Murray State’s hemp efforts rely on partnerships. “This is a great example of a public-private industry partnership here. Where our partners have realized that in order to come together to provide the synergy, to provide the research, to provide the information that will then be disseminated out in this industry that’s growing for the good of our commonwealth and for the good of our agriculture industry, it’s important that we pull together and pool resources.”
Parr said the center’s projects involve research in agronomy, projects involving animal feed and the development of business models. Other programs will involve CBD, manufacturing, policy and leadership. Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Tony Brannon said as the center will grow with corporate support from a variety of backgrounds. The center will also publish a Journal of Agricultural Hemp that will include articles and research.
Brannon thanked Congressman James Comer for being a “hemp hero” for singling out hemp as an area for growth that would benefit Kentucky farmers.
Comer said it was a battle in Frankfort to get a bill passed involving hemp research. He thanked Brannon for having the courage to plant the first seeds. “No other university in America had planted hemp since World War II.” He credited Brannon for planting the seeds despite “naysayers” believing the crop was a drug (hemp is a horticultural cousin of marijuana but does not have the same THC levels) and that there would be problems as a result.
“I don’t think any other university would have planted hemp seeds had Murray State University not planted that first hemp seed.” He said, as a result, Murray State is the leading industrial hemp research university in the U.S. “And that’s a big deal.”
Comer said moving forward, regional university business models have to adapt to a new business model because the amount of state and federal funding for postsecondary education has been decreasing “and it’s probably not going to get any better.” He said more funding in the future will have to come from private interests and private companies.
“Private companies aren’t going to donate money to universities if they’re not doing the types of things that are beneficial to those industries.” He said universities will also have to play a bigger role in economic development moving forward, believing that the partners are in Murray and creating jobs because of the university and the region’s farmers.
President Bob Jackson said, “A university can’t do what we do today without private support, sponsorships, friends, alumni, and that list goes on and on.” He praised Brannon and and his staff for being on the “cutting edge” of hemp and called it a “landmark day” that will be considered an important moment in the history of the university.
In presentations about the future of the hemp industry, Brannon listed CBD product growth in areas involving topicals, capsules, oils, inhalables, edibles, drinks and pet supplements and noted a projected growth of nearly $22 billion dollars by 2022.
Josh Hendrix of CV Sciences said he believes CBD will be considered a nutrient no different than vitamin C and fish oil. “It is too big to fail,” he said, of the industry’s growth and potential. “You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube.” He predicts hemp will be the biggest crop Kentucky has ever seen.