By Sean Ellis
Hempitecture, Idaho’s largest user of hemp, opened a 33,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Jerome in February.
The facility uses about 36,000 pounds of industrial hemp every two weeks and for now, all of that hemp is imported from out of state, mostly from Montana and Canada.
But company officials hope to source most of their hemp in the future from inside Idaho if it becomes a crop grown on a larger scale here.
“If it was to specification, we would definitely like to source (most) of our hemp from Idaho,” said Mattie Mead, owner and co-founder of Hempitecture. “We do consume quite a deal of industrial hemp and … we do see a future where ideally we’re sourcing (at least) half of it from Idaho.”
Headquartered in Sun Valley, Hempitecture has employees sprinkled around the country, from Seattle to New York.
Mead said the company looked at several possible sites to locate its manufacturing facility and chose Idaho because of its proximity to its main markets, as well as its pro-business climate and advanced agriculture industry.
Hempitecture’s Jerome facility is located just off of the main Twin Falls exit on Interstate 15, next to a truck stop.
“If you zoom out and look where our facility is – Jerome, Idaho – we’re really regionally well-situated to reach major markets, especially markets across the West,” Mead said. “We’re right on the interstate here and this location in particular, right off the freeway, makes it easy for truckers to come in and out and load up on our materials and get back on the highway.”
Hempitecture looked at several different states as options to locate the facility.
“But we want to be close to where there’s agriculture, we want to be close to where there is a definitive supplier – IND Hemp from Montana – and we also want to make ourselves more proximal to the markets in which we’re selling,” Mead said.
“There are a lot of reasons Idaho made sense,” he added, noting that the company was welcomed and courted by local, county and state officials.
“Idaho has a pro-business climate; we’ve been really well received by local county commissioners, planning and zoning and state officials,” he said.
That included the Idaho Department of Commerce.
“Idaho is a proud home to a long line of agricultural innovators; we are a state that knows agriculture more than many others,” Idaho Department of Commerce Director Tom Kealey told Idaho Farm Bureau Federation when asked to comment on Hempitecture. “Our state’s rich agriculture industry is one of the reasons Hempitecture chose to locate in our state and why the company is a perfect fit in Jerome.”
Hempitecture uses industrial hemp as the main ingredient to produce insulation products for the construction industry.
“Where you use conventional insulation, you can use hemp wool,” Mead said. “There are other natural fibers that we’re experimenting with … but hemp is the primary ingredient in all of our products.”
“Our goal is to produce more sustainable and high-performing bio-based building materials,” Mead said. “I think we’re on the cutting edge of what is a new and emerging industry.”
He said the company is in the early stages of figuring out what type of hemp varieties work best for certain products.
Mead said the company is happy to be buying a product that contributes dollars to rural communities “because it’s grown by farmers. Our building material starts as a seed.”
He said the company is still in the very early stages and learning as it goes, but things are starting to fall in place from a productivity and efficiency standpoint.
“While it’s still early, we see a very bright future for what we’re doing here,” he said. “We are focused on building materials right now but there are so many applications outside of building materials that I think are really exciting.”
“We are excited to see all the company will accomplish and the changes they will bring to the industry, the city and state,” Kealey said. “The company has already opened so many doors to other similar companies looking to locate to Idaho. We’re certain they will continue to open many more, inspiring innovation throughout the state.”
Idaho in 2022 became the last state in the nation to pass legislation allowing farmers in the state to grow and process industrial hemp, which by law must not exceed 0.3 percent of THC, the psychoactive compound that gets a user of marijuana high.
According to experts, it is impossible to get high from industrial hemp. The crop is also highly regulated – in Idaho by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture – and any fields with hemp plants that exceed that 0.3 percent threshold must be destroyed.Click here to see more...