Green Point Research has solidified its presence in Florida with the acquisition of Sunshine Growers, a 30-acre nursery in Fort Meade (near Tampa).
The plan is to combine Green Point’s expertise in the emerging hemp industry with Sunshine Growers’ success in greenhouse-grown ornamentals and produce. Finding the right place to settle down in Florida, according to Green Point CEO David Hasenauer, is key for the company’s plans in the hemp marketplace.
The company started in the medical cannabis space before pivoting to hemp in 2016. The idea of an unrestrained marketplace seemed more realistic in hemp; two years later, of course, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and hemp-derived compounds. Now, with this latest acquisition, Green Point’s team plans to move into a more focused role. Specialization is one trend that Hasenauer sees in U.S. hemp right now.
“We'll be shifting our business focus from originating acres and brokering to long-term, identity-preserved agricultural distribution contracts and delivering high-quality biomass and crude oil to purchasers,” he tells Hemp Grower. Whereas vertical integration became a quick way to differentiate businesses as hemp was getting off the ground in pilot programs around the U.S., Hasenauer is seeing a transition toward specialization and more focused knowledge bases at individual companies.
And expanding in Florida is where he and the team want to take the Green Point vision. With roots in the Sunshine State, Green Point is harnessing the combined power of the regional climate and the knowledge of greenhouse cultivation techniques to begin commercial hemp production for extraction purposes.
“Because of the low seasonality of Florida … we have tremendous production advantages,” he says. “With the photo period, it does give us a longer grow season, but it also makes a necessity out of the nursery operations, because of the photo period and having to do prop and veg indoor and then transplant. … Florida, with effective nursery operations, allows year-round production and the ability to slide into fallow fields anywhere and [employ] more of a just-in-time production model. And that's why we focused our operations here.”
And that’s where Sunshine Growers comes in.
Craig Roth, owner of Sunshine, will stay on as part of the operational management team; he and his company will lease back a portion of the nursery to continue growing flowers, vegetables and outdoor plants. And the Sunshine staff—with 10, 15 years of experience in Florida, as Hasenauer points out—will offer a wealth of on-site knowledge as Green Point gets its hemp cultivation going.
The 30-acre nursery is a turnkey situation for Green Point. Hasenauer says it’s vital for companies to fully vet the property they’re targeting. Know the scope of the environmental controls and learn about what was grown there previously. And because pesticide regulations for hemp are still being worked out in many U.S. states, it’s imperative to understand the risks of cross-contamination in a newly acquired facility.
“And, obviously, hemp has different storage and temperature requirements when in transit than other agricultural commodities,” he says. “Make sure you can get your plants out healthy, alive and vibrant to the farmer for transplant. There are definitely special considerations you're going to make when looking at any property.”
Because of Sunshine Growers’ rich horticultural history, Hasenauer says that hemp then becomes a nice supplemental crop—rather than a replacement for anything that Sunshine had been growing previously. “The whole idea with hemp,” he says, “is that, at its most valuable, it’s not something that replaces other agricultural commodities. It’s something that supplements them.”
As the New York Times noted in an Oct. 6 article, this idea becomes even more clear amid an ongoing trade war that’s hammering American farmers. Orders may be decreasing, allowing farmers to add hemp into a crop rotation and diversify their portfolio.
“Hemp is excellent as a supplement—whether it's nightshade and pepper producers who are already expert row crop farmers, … you can slide into production and help both segments of their business,” he says. “Really, it's understanding agronomically where these [different horticultural] industries are and how you can best help those constituents succeed, because it's all about the producers at the end of the day.”
And Green Point, taking a turn at its own brand of specialization in commercial hemp cultivation, is keeping that idea front of mind.