The collective stakeholders of the hemp industry are always eager to share knowledge or experience they’ve developed while tackling the most pressing issues farmers face. Cooperation between the dedicated hemp operators and established adjacent sectors is crucial to speeding the efficient maturation of the market and vital to the full commoditizing of industrial hemp, from setting standards to solidifying best practices. The sooner hemp testing standards are adopted, infrastructure is built, research is shared, and regulatory certainty is established, the sooner the full potential of hemp can be realized to the benefit of all.
While the 2018 Farm Bill was an incredible step in reestablishing the hemp economy, some of its gray areas have led to the consternation of hemp farmers and processors. HIA Member NEOGEN felt it was their duty to contribute to the quality and safety of the hemp industry while furthering their mission of keeping food and animal products safe. Making important, meaningful, and impactful products for farmers is the core of NEOGEN’s business, where farming and food safety have come first since 1982.
Addressing Challenges in Conjunction
HIA members are committed to seizing opportunities at their intersections and developing collaborative solutions to common issues. A perfect example of industry collaboration is the story behind NEOGEN’s Reveal® Q+ for Δ9-THC on-site testing solution. They recognized that no one is more equipped to find practical solutions for the industry than the entrepreneurs who lead it. The outcome of this joint effort is an on-site crop monitoring solution that can precisely detect and report THC levels between 0.1% and 1.6%. Utilizing NEOGEN’s Raptor® Solo Integrated Analysis Platform the portable Wi-Fi-enabled reader is used to quickly analyze the lateral flow test strips.
Distilling the best practices identified by long-established sectors and applying new perspectives, NEOGEN partnered with several hemp industry stakeholders in the second half of the product development phase, to create a solution to help farmers test for Delta-9 THC on-demand. Blain Becktold of iHemp Michigan explained how, “the NEOGEN scientists reached out to me early on when they had a prototype of their new test. I had them join me at a hemp plot to see what it could do. The test performed well early on, and I was able to advise them on how to make it easier for hemp farmers to use.”
Furthermore, Blain discussed how testing has impacted farmers like how “we all have heard stories and I have a few friends that had to destroy the crop due to the THC being over 0.3%. All their hard work and money wasted. There is no reason for you to be that grower that must destroy the crop with this on-farm test now available. It is great to have companies that spend time to learn all they can about Hemp and become part of our industry.”
Research scientist at NEOGEN, Heath Burgoyne spoke on how “the hemp industry has been very welcoming to us and has been extremely instrumental in the design and functionality of our newly released assay. Regular communications with industry professionals kept us acutely aware of the needs of the industry and helped us to create the best product to fit their needs.”
Burgoyne continued, “We have always been concerned with ease of use, as well as accuracy for our assay. We are also aware of the current regulations and concerns that the industry is experiencing due to the changes in regulations. An affordable, rapid monitoring test for THC levels of a crop is a great tool in the hands of the people in the industry who are the most vulnerable. Our consistent communication with Hemp professionals led us to create a reliable testing option for the industry.”
Putting Existing Systems to the Test
Providing results quickly and in a consistent, more cost-effective manner is imperative to a successful hemp operation. Now, crops can be monitored early and often, for more detailed plot analytics, while reducing the risk of crops going hot and needing to be destroyed. Working with Mid-Michigan Hemp Supply during development, NEOGEN put their product in the hands of genetic specialists to get their feedback.
“I know our Mid-Michigan Hemp Supply genetics like the back of my hand. It has been great to work with NEOGEN as they were developing this test to see how it performed when compared side by side to my third-party test results”, said Jen Nelson of Mid-Michigan Hemp Supply. “Obviously, there is a demand for this type of product, the NEOGEN Raptor has filled a gap in the industry that creates security for any hemp farmer, not only that but it clears up precious time for us. I consider it a must have for anyone growing hemp,” Jen continued.
This is exactly the type of collective problem solving and stewardship needed in every developing industry, including hemp. As a testing kit provider, NEOGEN relies on guidance from AOAC International, a third-party not-for-profit dedicated to developing and validating standards and methods to advance food safety, food integrity, and public health. The driving force behind AOAC is its expert review panel that approves analytical methods for detecting and measuring actively, while setting the gold standard in testing methodology. Guiding hemp testing standards to adhere to AOAC practice sets the industry up to play long term on a global scale.
In an effort to grow cultivators understanding on how to achieve an accurate analysis of hemp products NEOGEN’s team put together a series of five white papers: A Guide to Hemp Method Validations.
As hemps’ challenges grow more complex, the reality is, answers lie in collaboration. Success suddenly becomes a joint venture once organizations strategize behind the same goal. Agility is greatly needed to create comprehensive market solutions as hemp regulation develops amongst ever-changing economic and environmental forces. Members like NEOGEN and iHemp Michigan are the HIA’s most valuable resource and leveraging their knowledge, experience, talents, and passion in service of the industry is the very reason for a trade association. Their strategic intent is an essential ingredient in the commitment to building a robust and educated industry.
By Ryann Hinch, Director of Operations at the Hemp Industries Association