“The true value of the Asian Hemp Summit event for me, as a complete newcomer to the industry, was that being in such a remote geographical location afforded intimate networking opportunities with key global stakeholders in a way I had never experienced before.“
When I stepped off the plane on a crisp evening in Kathmandu, Nepal almost exactly one year ago, I had no idea of what the week ahead was going to bring me, or the exciting new course that my life was about to be set on.
In addition to the trip being my first visit to this astonishing part of the world – staying in an ancient city surrounded by the soaring peaks of the Himalayas – I was also on my way to the inaugural Asian Hemp Summit, feeling a little nervous and intrigued by both the location and the upcoming event.
After a decade in Colorado working incredibly demanding hours running a start-up business that was sold in late 2018, I committed to myself that the next chapter of my professional life would only be spent doing something that I was passionate about, working in a field where I felt I could have the greatest impact. Most importantly, I wanted to make a real contribution to things I am most worried about: mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis and creating clean, well-paying jobs with dignity to help address economic inequality.
Right thing to do
Everything I had seen or read about hemp – its use as a building material, textiles, food, medicine and more – led me to believe that finding a way to work with this plant was the right thing to do. A last-minute decision in January 2019 saw me booking my tickets and flights, and the Asian Hemp Summit became the first event I attended in the not-then-clearly-defined newly chosen career path. Really all I knew was that I wanted to play some part in advancing the use and exploring the properties of this seemingly magical plant.
With around 100 other attendees representing 25 countries, I felt privileged to hear the words of numerous industry leaders over both conference days. As fascinating and valuable as all of this information was – on topics as diverse as biocomposites, new developments with farming equipment, investment options, building techniques and materials, import and export advice and talking about extraction and processing technologies – the impact of the event was far deeper than simply listening to experts share their wisdom.
The true value of the Asian Hemp Summit event for me, as a complete newcomer to the industry, was that being in such a remote geographical location afforded intimate networking opportunities with key global stakeholders in a way I had never experienced before. The event was certainly not anything like the huge 90,000 person shows I used to attend in Las Vegas in my previous working life! After a week, I left Nepal feeling incredibly energized and engaged, with the beginnings of what is becoming a deep global network of contacts with leaders in the world of hemp. I also made some lovely new friendships and was given a chance to start my new career with some freelance writing opportunities for this magazine.
Over the next twelve months, I travelled to sixteen cities in seven different countries, leaving Australia for the United States, and then on to England, Wales, Scotland, Japan, Costa Rica and finally Uruguay. During my travels, I had the opportunity to meet and interview many people who were both literally and metaphorically working in this incredibly diverse field. For this magazine, I wrote articles about a small start-up in Wisconsin navigating the still-murky legislative waters following the introduction of the US Farm Bill in 2018. I spent time with a master builder in Wales who had just completed the first commercially available property in his home nation using this incredible carbon-negative material. And I spoke with and learned more about an eyewear designer in Scotland using hemp bioplastics for some very funky sunglasses.
On to Latin America
I began research into a more detailed article about the groundbreaking work being done by the team manufacturing engineered HempWood in Kentucky, and continued to read and absorb as much as I could about all things hemp. The more I learned, the more excited and certain I became that I am on exactly the right path. When I saw that the first Latin American and Caribbean Hemp Summit was being organised in Montevideo, Uruguay in November last year, I knew I should do whatever it took to get there (full disclosure that I was fortunate to be able to attend the event on a media pass as a contributor to this magazine).
As with the Asian Hemp Summit in Kathmandu, this second HempToday-hosted event in South America was my first trip to a new region, and the days spent in Montevideo provided a pretty incredible bookend to what was an amazing year of learning and professional growth. Once again, the relatively intimate summit of around 100 attendees and speakers afforded the opportunity to meet highly influential key stakeholders, along with other entrepreneurs and change-agents from around the world, all keen to play their part in getting hemp and all of its potentially beneficial uses into partially or fully closed markets.
While I am sadly not able to attend the second Asian Hemp Summit which kicks off on the final day of this month due to commitments in a new role within the peak industry body here in my home state, and work that I am doing for the Australian Industrial Hemp Conference (a huge bi-annual national event happening in Freemantle, Western Australia at the end of February this year), I am so grateful that I was able to be in Kathmandu in 2019.
I feel sure that the cohort of attendees at the 2020 Asian Hemp Summit – once again representing a diverse group made up of key industry stakeholders, politicians, development agencies, private hemp enthusiasts, environmental groups and retailers – will gain as much for their time in Nepal next week as I did from the two hemp summits that I was lucky enough to participate in last year, and I look forward to being at the next event in 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Freelancer Andi Lucas is the founder and owner of NSP Development. After a decade in Colorado, USA, Andi has returned to her native home of Tasmania, Australia where she is now heavily involved in all things hemp. In addition to writing, Andi is planning the build of four small hempcrete homes in coastal towns with an accompanying educational program and works with both the peak industry body in her home state and the national group who represent the interests of growers, makers and supporters of the hemp plant and its many uses.