Irish hemp firm cited for ‘high-potential’, earns development award

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Hemp farmers Laura Foley and her partner Daniel Lyons have been awarded a stipend of €15,000 to help develop their hemp business from Enterprise Ireland, a development agency. The partners launched their company, Canabaoil, in late-2017.

The award, under the agency’s “New Frontiers” program, is among a number granted annually to high-potential startups.

Stamp of approval

“It is an opportunity to develop our strategic growth plan with guidance from a panel of international experts but most importantly for me, it was the stamp of approval to say yes this is a commercially viable idea,” Foley said. It also opens other avenues for the company to help promote hemp in government and business circles and add legitimacy to the wider Irish hemp industry.

Canabaoil, based in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, hopes to have a CBD tincture on the market in March 2019, and is researching other products such as cosmetics, foods, beers and pet food.

”We are a seed to shelf hemp company and because of this, each stage in our value chain is governed by a different department,” Foley said. The company regularly engages with the Department of Health, the Health Product Regulatory Authority, Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority to ensure their company and products are compliant with all regulations in Ireland.

Studying business and plant

Since becoming interested in hemp a number of years ago, Foley and Lyons focused their educational studies around the plant. Both are doing their Masters in Agricultural Innovation with a focus hemp. Lyons is investigating the barriers to the hemp industry in Ireland and Foley is examining ways of increasing yields in controlled farming environments.

This year they grew Futura and Felina on their farm. “I found that they were both of a monoecious variety and this causes difficulty for CBD production as the energy from the plant goes into making seed instead of the trichomes,” Laura notes. This meant they were very hands-on in the fields during the summer removing male plants from female plants.

Need for high CBD strains

“Seed varieties available in the EU variety database are predominantly geared towards the seed and fiber industry. The introduction of very low THC and high CBD cultivar would be very beneficial to small specialized hemp Growers looking to produce plants for CBD oil production.”

Foley sees hemp providing real opportunities in Ireland but it may take time. “This is a fantastic industry for rural Ireland and hemp has the opportunity to be a great crop for farmers, but we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place and the market is developed before these opportunities can be realized,” she said.

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