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IND Hemp: It's Role In Health And Nutrition.

Food, Oil and Fiber

We spoke to Morgan Tweet, Co-Founder and CEO of IND Hemp and Executive Director of the HRC about the connection of industrial hemp to food and nutrition. Our conversation below serves as an eye opener of the impacts industrial hemp is having on food, farms, soil, health and communities. It is worthy to mention the number of partnerships they are building and the benefits for even greater collaboration.

Transcript below:

Robin: I really appreciate you coming on. It's so nice to meet you. I haven't had a chance to say hello to you. And I'm super impressed. I've followed some of those videos and podcasts that you've been doing, and it's remarkable what you can get accomplished in a day, so congratulations.

Morgan: Thank you.

Robin: I was looking at the IND Hemp website and I see on the homepage, it says "Meet the most inspired industrial hemp team in the US". I would almost say based upon what I'm observing, it's the most inspired business team in the US. A big congratulations for what you do. Morgan, would you mind explaining a little bit about what IND Hemp is and a little bit about your background, please.

Morgan: Of course. And just quick clarifying, it's actually IND hemp. Just it's short for industrial instead of Indy. But yes, we're an agricultural company based out of Fort Benton, Montana. And we focus on the first processing steps for converting industrial hemp crops into usable materials and ingredients. We have two parts of our business. We have our oil seeds division, which utilizes hemp grain, similar to flax or canola. It's an oil seed crop, but we utilize that grain for food and feed ingredients. We also have a fiber division which utilizes either the residual straw off of those crops or purpose-grown fiber varieties for that biomass material and the stock material. We convert the hemp stock into sustainable materials. So we separate the fiber from the inner woody core, which we call herd. And yes, we have a spectrum of products that come off of those facilities. We're mission focused on creating value in rural communities and converting this new crop into usable ingredients and materials, creating more value for our farmers and having them access to a new rotational crop.

Robin: I appreciate you clarifying that. IND Hemp has a significant presence in Montana, but can you explain a little bit maybe of some of its reach outside of Montana as well?

Morgan: Yes, absolutely. We've been fortunate enough to have some export opportunities. We've shipped material all the way over to South Korea and to Europe, as well. We've had some partners in South America, Argentina, and Uruguay. We have been able to employ a couple of individuals from Ghana, hopefully supporting them and we see an opportunity for Africa to partake in the hemp industry. We are trying to set up a foundation and support guys who want to bring that there. We've worked with our Canadian neighbors quite a bit. We've been working with them for seed and grain production for several years now and have done a little bit of business across the border with one of our converting partners is just north of us a few hours. So yes, although we're definitely Montana focused and most of our raw materials, the farmers we work with are central to Montana. We've had a pretty big footprint. We've worked with farmers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana and Texas. We've definitely tried to keep ourselves busy and we think that industrial hemp has a real opportunity across the world to impact communities. We also are very environmentally conscious. My dad would like to say we're an environmental company that does hemp, because hemp is one of the most, arguably the best sequester for carbon. And when you look at it compared to a tree lifecycle, for example, there's a lot more carbon we can sequester in this short life cycle that a hemp crop can do. So it's pretty amazing what this crop is capable of and we just feel really blessed to be on the journey and hopefully a good steward of the opportunity.

Robin Tours IND Hemp Farm Montana 2023

Robin: That's a great recap and a huge reach around the world. I'm impressed. Relative to the fact that a lot of people get confused between the marijuana industry and hemp would you clarify briefly the distinction?

Morgan: Yes. So there's a lot of different analogies that people use. The chemical property within marijuana and industrial hemp, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the chemical compound that is related to the psychoactive properties and what got hemp regulated as a drug for so many years. It is capable. The plant has the potential, whether you're growing it for fiber grain or floral material, it has the potential. There are definitely certain varieties that are more likely and have the ability to have higher concentrations. We are regulated by the USDA to maintain a 0.3% THC or lower in crops that were qualified as industrial hemp versus marijuana, which is anything above 0.3%. It's really just a part of the plant itself. It's naturally there. I like to tell people, we really should start looking at what we are using it for -- the grain and the stock material, you know, as they don't naturally have those compounds in the seed or in the stock. And so we really shouldn't be regulated to that and the farmer shouldn't be burdened removing the material off the field that has that potential, if that makes sense. So, you know, I've worked really hard this last couple of years. It's called the Industrial Hemp Act of 2023. We've gotten bi-partisan support. We've got a House and a Senate bill introduced, and I'm happy to share those with you. Largely what we're trying to do is create a distinction between what I call industrial hemp grain and stock material versus floral hemp, because the flower and the bract is really where that THC is and the other cannabinoids are accumulating. And so those farmers that either do not have flower on the plant or remove it, we just wanna create a distinction at the farm level so we can continue to remove regulatory burdens that unfortunately have conflated the issue and have made it really challenging for our industry to grow.

Robin: Right. I appreciate that explanation and I like the term flowering, because that gives a visual of the distinction. I want to ask about the plant itself. Are there organic versions of hemp and conventional? Is it farmed differently? Or how does that work?

Morgan: Yes, so we're mostly growing grain and fiber. So I'll just speak to that. And yes, there are organic and conventional growing or production models. We've done both. We've bought organic seed and organic straw. It's really the farm practices, right? So making sure that they're utilizing and those farmers are certified by the state, takes three years, minimum three years, no chemical applications. And hemp for a large part has been organic in nature, because there weren't any pesticides or herbicides that had hemp on the label. That's changed in the last year or so. There's a few broad leaf applications, some herbicides. And hemp for sure is a very plant and you plant at really higher densities, because of its canopying nature, it will outgrow, a lot of times will outcompete the weeds. So we think it's a great plant for regenerative agriculture or organic agriculture practices because it does help with weed mitigation. But we still have guys that are doing a burn down, a chemical burn down pre-season just to help clear things up and then planting behind that. So definitely both. There's pros and cons to both. And we see, in general, our mission to bring this as a rotation crop to make our farmers more diversified and more resilient to the ever-changing commodity markets. We need to be able to be practiced and used in both models.

Robin: I was able to visit your Fort Benton plant, which your team was gracious enough to host us, as well as invite us to one of the field days. And at that field day in the Bozeman area, the audience was so diverse. They had all kinds of interest for industrial applications from construction to clothing and all kinds of foods and you could just feel the energy. Our readership and the individuals that we work with are mostly interested in food and nutrition and health. And you're in that in so many different ways. Do you want to explain a little bit about that relative to your seed oils, to your supplements, your anima products - just like a 30,000 foot level of the diversity of what you're capable of doing and what you are doing?

Site Tour: IND Hemp, Fort Benton, Montana - 2024

Morgan: Hemp arguably, in the nutrition and food and feed side, is why we got into this to begin with. Just by itself, hemp is probably the most readily available and nutritious plant-based protein that is out there. In nature, it has a very unique amino acid profile for digestibility of that protein. While I'm not an expert by any means, I've talked to a lot of individuals and researchers and food formulators who get really excited about hemp as a protein source. And to make that even better, it complements with a really great fatty acid profile. So for a lot of your readership, I think canola or flax is probably the most applicable plant to compare it to because they know flax meal, they know flax protein and obviously they know the oil as well, but hemp's fatty acid profile is really unique, because it has the ideal combination of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which help our body to absorb omega 3's. Omega 6's are more inflammatory in nature. It is wild just how nature has made this planet like a super food. I believe whether IND hemp is here or not, hemp has a really strong future in the food space, because of those nutritional superiorities. It's going to continue to grow. Consumers are gonna continue to recognize it for its benefits. Its challenge right now is because of the technology that's out there, we're competing with crops that already have economies of scale. So price point is the challenge. The technologies would have to be slightly altered to be able to isolate those proteins and isolate that fatty acid. And so that just takes time, it takes capital, but I think that we're really gonna find that companies are gonna recognize it for its potential and invest in it. We've already talked to quite a few that are looking at larger commercialized operations and being able to get it in a format that people can easily consume. Hemp hearts are great, but there's only so many hemp hearts in a day people are going to eat, whether it's on their cereal or in a bar. When hemp really starts to make a play is when we find it in the back of the label - in the protein shakes, in your soup, in your noodles, n your salad dressing or your mayonnaise or your hemp milk. That's where I really think people are going to start to appreciate it and incorporate it into their everyday diet. So I think the potential is absolutely there. I'm hoping that more people can hang in there and keep after it, because it is a lot of work and it does take a lot of money. And so that's probably the biggest challenge for the industry right now, but I think there are a lot of people that see the potential and are working towards that future.

Robin: I think that the seed oil business itself or the individuals who are on the health side of it anyway have been writing about the current state of our seed oil situation. It seems hemp has a potential to really revolutionize that health scorecard. But as you said, and you always seem to bring it back to this, it has to be scaled. It has to be looked at from your position as the CEO, 100% utilization, maximizing that and creating the supply chain that would support it and you're making great progress. Would you mind just going back on a presentation that you recently did, maybe just talking about the eggs, the laying hens and the difference in terms of being able to eat hemp as a food source and what that realizes in the nutritional value of the egg itself?

Morgan: Yes, we've been working real hard. It is its own issue of things of getting meal approved, so I won't go into that, but what's really cool to see is when we take that hemp seed meal, which is a by-product and when you mechanically extract the oil out of the seed, there's a really nutritious by-product that is mostly protein and fiber. When we feed that to laying hens, there is residual fat that stays with it, it's about 8% to 12% fat content. Chickens that are then consuming that meal with the superior fatty acid profile that I spoke about translates into the hen and into the egg. And so you're seeing some really great nutritional benefits in the egg itself. Everything from the omega content to lutein*, which is a compound that's really important for eye health. We see good characteristics in the shell and the yolk pigmentation and overall just hen health. So that's just really neat. This is our first regulatory application, our first species (laying hens), and how exciting to already recognize those nutritional benefits, making it all the way to the consumer at the egg level.

Robin: And it's just, like I said, one of the first of, I think, many opportunities for hemp to showcase itself as a real superfood. I mean, that's a hugely impressive story. I have to say, as for the lutein component and the individuals who are currently exploring opportunities for better eye health, they are really struggling to find what helps, but lutein* is mentioned frequently. From the health side of it, I'm most excited about that component. But I know that, again, it magnifies to so many other products that the consumer will be able to have access to as the CEO of IND Hemp. You are also are the head of the Hemp Feed Coalition. And we don't have to go into all the details of that, but do you want to just make a pitch explaining what a HFC champion would be? You have a membership for those individuals and businesses who would be champions. Can you explain just a little bit about what that is?

Morgan: I really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you. HFC is a non-profit organization. It's mostly a group of either processors or farmers or those of us who are invested in the hemp industry, because it really is the long game that HFC is working towards and our mission to create federal approval for hemp as a feed ingredient. You know, that's a pretty arduous task and right now we are partnering with companies that recognize the opportunity Our first application for laying hens is a great example. There was a feed company in Pennsylvania, and then it partnered with one of their customers, which was a hen operation and egg operation. And both of them recognized the value available from a hemp fed diet and invested in it as a core partner. They paid for the feed study. They obviously paid for the commercialization of the hens and were able to get status in Pennsylvania to feed these eggs. HFC, like I said, is voluntary in nature, but it's pretty costly to put together these feed studies and these applications. We estimate about $300,000 to get one ingredient and one species through the whole process. It takes somebody who recognizes the value. Hopefully there are companies like these companies in Pennsylvania that I talked about that will realize the benefit on the back end and that investment ROI. If a consumer is like, hey, I want access to an egg like that, or I want access to a milk product like that, it could be the right fit, as well. I think milk is another really big one that we see health benefits as an ingredient and producers could be partners. So anyone can benefit from just an average membership, a hundred bucks a year, to a little bit more elevated of our membership. But really, I think the bigger partners, I'm hoping to see maybe a dairy operation or another hemp processor, someone like that will really step up in a more impactful way so that we can start to go after it. We are continuing to apply for grants and hopefully we'll see some state and federal funding be dedicated towards this research proving with yet more data that it's safe and efficacious. We're making progress and that is really important. I can't emphasize that enough of because like you talked about the commercialization and the scalability that our industry needs make all the pieces work. You need to have an off take for those by-products. Although the hens like the meal, you know, it's not a really great ingredient for human food sources. It's palatability, it's texture, it's formulation. It's not every day that people are going to put meal into green protein into their diets. So that's really important for us as an industry to open up those feed markets.

Robin: Right. Well, I appreciate you talking about the HFC, because as you've explained so eloquently in other podcasts and just now, you can't move forward without getting these approvals. The approvals are very laborious and it takes a lot of money and time. It seems to me that end consumers and businesses will see this as food is medicine scenario. There is momentum and even Medicare is currently looking at a pilot program of prescribed foods. We have to have this all lined up and ready to go, right? We have to have healthy alternatives. It seems to me very logical for many stakeholders to take a look at HFC. I believe you stated earlier that HFB members can get some behind the scenes reports and executive summaries where you summarize, so people don't have to sit there and read all the regulations and status reports, but you get this update.

I know I have family members who have for decades been saying this is the solution, industrial hemp is the solution. They're not related to anything hemp operations that I'm aware of, but just have been fans. Congratulations, you are showing the way.

Can we go back to IND Hemp for just one second? And essentially, when these individuals were at your field day, and as I said, they were diverse and a lot of people have an interest. We would like to support you. They want to support you and their questions are all the same, which is either 1) Where can they get the raw or semi-processed product? 2) What are the companies that are now utilizing your product, whether it is the seed oil or it's the fiber or something? They know they can basically vote with their dollar to say, we want to support you. Is there a list or a store mapper type page or how do we best do that as a consumer?

Morgan: Thanks for asking that question. That has been a bit of a challenge for the industry because although hemp, like, you know, it's so diverse in how many places it can be utilized.

a lot of it is still B2B in nature, right? So I'm selling my converted materials to another converter before it makes its way to a consumer's hand. We have taken some of that in-house and done some of the value-added processing either with partners or really just our brands. We've really leaned into the farming ranch sector and the animal and pet health sector because that's kind of like a really unique path where both our fiber products and our oilseed products can really live together. So animal bedding is one of our biggest products by volume. We have horse bedding and small animal pet bedding, for hamsters and gerbils and whatnot. The herd, that's the inner part of the stock, is really effective at absorbing moisture and managing odors. So that's where we see it such a premium product in the bedding space. We also see it in oil spill kits and things like that. It's amazing how quickly this stuff will absorb things. And then we complement it with the nutrition and the supplements of the oil seed products from the protein and the fatty acids. We have two brands, one's called Hemtana (you can find it at Murdoch's or North 40.) And there's some other distributors that are coming online later this year, but those are two well-known names, at least in this region. So the bedding is kind of the staple, but Hemtana also includes an equine supplement and nutrition line. Obviously, people understand how to use bedding. And then they usually follow it up with these top coat applications. So we put the oil on for the horse feed, and then we have the holes and the protein snacks. And then similarly, we are on Amazon with our small pet bedding. It's called All Walks. The genesis of that brand was that t takes all walks of people to make change. The thing that I think is so cool about hemp is how you talked about is like the group of people that showed up at the field day, they're so diverse, right? Hemp just, it's amazing how it touches so many different walks of life. And whether you're an advocate for mitigating climate change, or you're an advocate for rural communities or an advocate for nutrition.

Hemp is a vehicle that can really make change in all of those different paths. And so that's why we see such a diverse group of people advocating for the crop in itself, because it has so many of those touch points. So All Walks is sort of the impetus of that of, and we are looking at canine supplements. We hope to have dog collars and beds and we have a kitty litter coming out in the spring. We're really excited about the kitty litter. So it's been cool to continue to develop our branded products, but then we also have really strong partnerships. We have a food partner called Queen of Hearts. She does a really unique salad dressing and she does hemp hearts in a bag. She's all about the oil seeds and those inflammatory omegas and educating her consumers about different choices. Salad dressings are one of the most utilized ingredients that have canola oil or soy oil, which are really high in those omega-6s. So she's got a fantastic brand. She utilizes our ingredients. I know you can find her online.

And then conversely on the material side, we have a good partner called Hempatexture that uses our fiber and they're making a drop-in place replacement for fiberglass insulation. They have a great story about using sustainable building materials and the carbon footprint offset that results. And they're still finding it's just as efficacious as the pink stuff. We have a lot of those partners where we're continuing to lean in. We don't want to be everything to everybody. We want to find complementary partners in the supply chain

and hopefully make that impact in the footprint of industrial hemp just that much bigger.

Robin: One of the holy grails for our health and food groups have always been in safe packaging, labeling, and being able to have items that would be compostable and so on. And there really hasn't been a super big revolution in that exactly. Do you see something coming along for that relative to consumer products or packaging? Does that ever come up on the radar?


A lot of people are super excited about it. The challenge with packaging, as you know, is stability. I think people want to see a complete replacement for plastics. I think we all would love to see a reduced petroleum based supply chain. It is really challenging to take on petroleum based products head on, where instead, we believe we should approach it in a strategy as more of a complement. So take for example, the bag of plastic that shows up in your Amazon box that is literally just there to take up space, right? Well, if that film used in that packaging, which was before 100% petroleum based, could we convert it? What if it was 20% hemp and now it's only 80% petroleum and we continue to just kind of chip away at the footprint. We are working with companies that are compounders that take our hemp herd and we micronize it for them, so it's almost like a dust and then they're making it into filament so that it could be blown into like plastic bags and things like that. If we're just trying to do an exact one-to-one replacement, I think we're going to be challenged. The stability and the technology is not there. Instead we just kind of sneak it in there and the next thing, you know, 10 years go by and like, oh wow, now this is 40% natural products versus zero, right? I think that's where we're going to really start to make change and the consumer will have a role to play in that, because obviously there will be some cost efficiencies that will be challenging at the beginning. And so the consumer advocating for continued development and adoption of these sustainable materials is going to be key. And I think for industrial hemp, it's just one of the opportunities at play. And on top of like we talked about the carbon sequestration foot-print opportunity, as well as paper, right? Even though people don't think of paper as a bad product by any means, think of how much cardboard is wasted and isn't recycled. Composting is another thing that we do a lot of research into that. We just launched a nesting hen mat. So basically we take our fiber and we have a partner of ours put it into a non-woven mat. The thing that we love to tell our buyers is, as soon as you're done using it, throw it in your garden. It works great and you don't have to worry about seven or eight months for it to compost, works right away. We're working on a weed barrier that you actually just mulch in and it is made up 100 percent of our fine dust and fine fiber material. It looks just like a weed barrier that's that plastic-y felt-like material, but the difference is instead of having to remove it and throw it away with the plastics, you just put it into your garden at the end of the year. It actually has a soil amendment property to it and you're adding that nitrogen back into the soil.

We are going to be at the lawn and garden show in Bozeman at Gallatin County in a couple of weekends where we're going to get to showcase some of those products. We're hoping to get feedback from consumers of like, hey, what did you like? What did you didn't like? You know, what's the value here? So we're always looking for partners to help us and continuing to grow our consumer facing products.

Robin: Thank you, that's really inspiring. And I think that the cardboard replacement idea in composting is critical, because as we learn more about what's even in the cardboard or the newspaper, the master gardeners are warning to stay away. Having another alternative is a great solution. So it's all, it's inspiring, it's exciting. Morgan, I can always tell that you're just going rapidly through your day as a CEO. You have a lot of responsibility. I want to leave you with the last question. How would you like to collaborate with other businesses along the way? Where can they plug in?

Morgan: Yes, I would say connecting with us and reaching out. We always, I'm a big advocate and really talk to my team about. You just never know who you're gonna talk to, what door opportunity is there. And so we make a point to take time out of our day to connect with everybody. You just don't know what's gonna happen and who God's going to put in front of your path. And I think we have a responsibility to this crop and how diverse and useful it is to give every opportunity a shot and to at least evaluate it. I'm not saying that it's gonna be the end all be all for everything. But you just never know and I think that you need to be able to invest and plant those seeds of ideas, right? Just let the creative juices continue to flow. So I encourage anyone, if they have their own products, not sure if hemp can have a play in it or something to reach out to us. You'd be surprised how much we're already doing and how much we've already talked to people. And so we might have an idea to complement. If, for example you're making your own trail mix, that's an easy one and maybe we could throw some hemp hearts in there. Or if you're making, you know, your own jewelry set or something, maybe we can get some hemp fibers to you or some twine or something. I think there's just amazing opportunities. We are big advocates of local supply chains and so working with other Montana based companies and just domestic supply in general, right, to continue to grow the footprint. I would encourage people to not count us out, not count Hemp out just yet. And maybe there's some collaboration there.

Robin: I want to say as a result of learning about IND Hemp and then meeting your team it's all been so positive for our state in Montana, for the farmers, for so many different links along the supply chain and certainly the consumers. And I would would like to say thank you. Thank you for being located where you are in Fort Benton and just showing off the power that can happen if you pull together the right idea and the right team for what it can do for our state, much less other states and countries as you've discussed.

Robin: Thank you Morgan. Keep on keeping on, and I really appreciate your time today.

Morgan: Well, thanks, Robin. Those really kind words, and there's a bit of tenacity that just has to come with it, because we're definitely a two steps forward, one step back some days, but we're in it for the long haul, and Montana is just a wonderful place to be, and I just started my family here. We had a little girl in August last year and I love to be able to think that she has a bright long future here in Montana.

Robin: She will with your guidance and that's very promising. So thank you again and I look forward to maybe touching base with you later as things develop and you have more news to share.

Morgan: Yes. Keep in touch. Take care and have a great day. Thank you.

Produced for 2020 - Additional insights into IND Hemp culture of opening opportunities and dialogue for the world of industrial hemp.

*Lutein: The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health


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