Beyond the Mitten: West Michigan companies making waves around the globe
Hemp Solutions USA: Working for nature and creating sustainable solutions
Did you know hemp produces more pulp than trees, removes more carbon dioxide than other crops, is considered a superfood, has more than 5,000 textile uses, and requires no pesticides? Just ask James Novak, one of Hemp Solutions’ four founding members. As a raw materials provider of industrial hemp that is located in the Grand Rapids area, this company plans to help the world make big changes related to the production of sustainable goods. “If you can make it from wood, cotton, plastic, concrete, metal—just about anything—you can probably make it from hemp,” says Novak. “We want to be a source for eco-friendly products, services, and education.”
Novak founded Hemp Solutions in 2011 in Joshua Tree, California and then decided to relocate the operation to the Midwest in 2012. “I saw the [environmental] destruction and devastation happening in the Midwest, and I felt empowered to come back and try to bring a positive solution to the area.” Novak chose Grand Rapids because of the city’s progressive mindset and openness to sustainability.
Hemp cultivation doesn’t harm the environment, but actually helps it. For example, one acre of industrial hemp produces four times as much raw material as one acre of trees. Hemp is carbon neutral and removes more carbon dioxide than any other plant. It requires less water than cotton and uses no pesticides. Hemp Solutions has been working hard to develop innovative products that will take this raw material to the next level. For example, they have been part of green building redevelopment projects, providing hemp-based alternatives to wood and concrete for LEED certified buildings.
Their premiere product, a grass root grow mat, is turning traditional farming on its head. “In less than two weeks we are able to harvest micro-greens that have had almost no water, no light and no fertilizer,” says Novak. Companies worldwide are using these grow mats and vertically farming; with it they are able to produce more than 40 different varieties of greens and compost the mat when they are done.
Goods made from hemp—including the nutritious seeds and oil—are legal in all 50 states, but the actual farming of this versatile crop is legal in only 23 states, most strictly for research purposes. Hemp has been grown worldwide for thousands of years. It has more than 25,000 uses, and none of them have to do with THC. While hemp is a cousin of marijuana, the plant does not bud and has no psychoactive effect. “The biggest thing we are trying to do currently is spread awareness about the powerful uses of hemp and separate ourselves from the stigma that tends to be associated with it,” says Novak. “We have been fighting to stay in Grand Rapids because we are proud of what this area has been able to accomplish. There’s so much potential, so many uses for hemp; we have to continue to educate others and spread the word.”
Novak went on to say that his business has faced resistance at the city and state level, stressing that he wants “local residents to know that we stand apart from the pack and are not a marijuana business. We are a business who truly cares about the environment, the people and the community.” He continues, saying that “we would like to see more local support and attention to the products, education and path that we’re on. It all has a major impact on the local community, our state and the planet.”
Hemp can positively influence the way houses are built and food is grown; it can change the way we use energy and enhance our technology…it’s time to pay attention.