The Citizen’s Voice reports……MAYFIELD — A few entrepreneurs and Lackawanna College are building a throne for the emerging hemp industry on the bones of long-dead King Coal.
Running in tandem with marijuana policy, both for medical use and the still-debated recreational side, federal and state governments are clearing the way for hemp to return.
Scientists with Mayfield-based AgriHemp Industries and Lackawanna College found at least one seed strain, shared from Penn State’s hemp research program, that grows well in culm, the mine waste piled in fields scattered throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.
“We’ve set up a for-profit company that will be a vertically integrated hemp company to do research, to grow and process the oils, to creating final end products,” said AgriHemp partner Daniel Summa.
The scientists nurture seedlings with detoxified water from the 70-billion-gallon underground mine void that runs from Carbondale to Jermyn.
Summa is also executive director of U.S. Ecological Advanced Research & Conservation Hub (USEARCH) and the founder of Keystone Pure Water Tech, a company that developed systems to clean water used in hydraulic fracturing and other industries.
Last year, the state Department of Agriculture gave USEARCH and the college a permit to research hemp.
“We grew it out on about an acre in the growing season… we just wanted to prove that we could grow it,” Summa said. “This year, we’re hoping to grow 25 acres on the culm side.”
They will start seedlings, up to 100,000 at a time, in a greenhouse attached to the NEET Center, the Mayfield business incubator and tech center that Summa and his colleagues, former Lackawanna College President Ray Angeli and businessman Karl Pfeiffenberger, started a few years ago.
The NEET Center is almost fully occupied with health and tech companies. Summa and Angeli said hemp winds together the diverse strands of their original vision for the place.
They have proprietary technology, and are now outfitting existing, multi-million-dollar laboratories last used by Pennsylvania American Water, to remove lipids and other unwanted compounds from hemp and refine it down to pharmaceutical-grade CBD.