Acompany trying to create a new form of high-quality hemp seed is touring the country, educating farmers while putting on a competition.
HiLo Hemp Seed Co. started up in 2017, with its headquarters on the Leary Farm, just outside colonial Edenton in North Carolina.
The company adds to what it calls the “hemp movement,” saying in a statement to Wikileaf, “In a nutshell, we are a farmer-first hemp seed company who feels strongly that farmer education and high-quality seed is what will help this industry thrive.”
HiLo is creating a hemp seed it calls Autopilot – a “premier, day-neutral, high-CBD autoflower genetic.”
So what the heck does that mean?
HiLo says its Autopilot seed is quick to harvest, with a maturity cycle of about 10-12 weeks. Since weeds, disease, and pests have little time to strike, Autopilot is labeled “resistant” to those factors.
Since that crop cycle is so short, and hemp is plantable year-round, that means an annual yield is going to be much higher than other plants. Its germ rate is 98%.
Its machine plantable and harvestable, so it isn’t incredibly labor-intensive. All that makes it ideal for farmers hoping to get a foot in the door in the hemp-growing industry. Each seed is evaluated and tested to make sure it is a premier product, with an average CBD to THC ratio of 24:1.
The seed is developed through crossbreeding between a cannabis genetic that flowers based on age, and one that is a bit sturdier and quick to harvest: cannabis ruderalis.
Recently, HiLo set up an education booth and marketing pavilion at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. That exposition is the largest annual agricultural show of its kind, with over 100,000 attendees from 65 different countries exploring and learning about more than 1,400 displays of agricultural technology.
HiLo told Wikileaf its time at the World Ag Expo in February educating farmers about Autopilot was an incredible success.
“Farmers’ interest ranged from just wanting to see a plant up close to asking specifics on harvesting, pests, testing, and more. Even the folks who are not farmers were just so excited to see that we, and all our fellow exhibitors in the Pavilion, were present at the Expo. Hemp brings a new flavor to ag, and we, as part of this new industry, felt very supported by those who came by the Pavilion,” said HiLo representative Jenny Lamboy when asked about HiLo Hemp Co’s time at the World Ag Expo.
HiLo focuses on hemp seed genetics, breeding, producing, and distributing specially created forms of the hemp seed.
Part of what was after at the World Ag Expo was the opportunity to educate farmers about hemp, and the benefits of growing it. The company says it hopes to find best-in-class breeders who can acquire their licenses to cultivate.
“Some folks only breed and license. Some only distribute seeds, or produce them for others,” explains HiLo on its website. “We believe that having an active hand in each step of the process allows us to better support our farmers and help them make informed decisions.”
HiLo’s Autopilot has other benefits, as well. Farmers tend to plant things based on cycles, with certain fields resting between crops.
Since the Autopilot hemp seed has such a short crop cycle, and flowers in a very predictable way with the weather causing little impact, it allows farmers to maximize their space between seasons. Since the plant is so sturdy, farmers can lay it out in a very dense space – as many as 20,000 seeds per acre.
“We believe in hemp,” said HiLo. “In all the good it brings to people and the planet—and in the positive impact it’s having on agriculture. We are committed to making hemp our way of life and our mission is to support farmers who feel the same, those who work the land with their hands and hearts to cultivate this incredible plant. We aren’t large-scale farmers. We’re a family. And we aim to provide the best genetics we can.”
At the Expo, HiLo Hemp Seed Co. also told farmers about its Million Hemp Seed Giveaway program. The company is giving away a million Autopilot hemp seeds in 2020, to at least 40 different farmers. That way, farmers can get their foot in the door with hemp seeds, without having to risk an investment.
Drawings for the prize seeds will take place on March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st.
Each drawing, at least 10 winners will be selected to receive about 15,000 Autopilot hemp seeds, which is enough for about an acre.
“The sooner qualified farmers enter, the more chances they will have to win,” HiLo told Wikileaf. That being said, there can be only one winner per farm.
HiLo’s directors are from all over the place. The company’s managing partner, Tai Olesky, is a former managing chef. He identifies as “part farmer, part businessman, part hemp evangelist” and now oversees strategic planning and implementation of genetics, “always with the goal of promoting the healing powers of hemp.”
“I believe that hemp is the answer to a lot of the earth’s problems. I don’t know if it’s going to save the world, but I do believe it’s one of the only things that can, and it’s time for a change,” said Olesky.
The head of farmer relations, Kevin Nowell, dropped out of college and took an internship at a ranch in his 20s, diving into organic vegetables in California before turning to hemp.
“Most farmers are hard-working, honest people. I don’t want to see them losing the farm or taking these big hits because they just didn’t know. What better way to help than to educate my fellow farmers?”
Amber Eidem, also in farmer relations, comes from a long line of farmers. Eidem is responsible for helping farmers with legal, financial, and marketing questions for HiLo.
And Jenny Lamboy, the Director of Marketing, started in broadcast journalism in Texas, and now works in Colorado telling HiLo’s story.
“We want farmers to understand that we’re one of them. The founders of HiLo are passionate about the genetics and they know a lot—they’re super geeky about every aspect of growing this plant. And they also have a bigger vision for how the benefits of hemp are really going to help people and the planet,” said Lamboy.
The company will be at the National Hemp Expo in Louisville, Kentucky from February 29th to March 1st.