‘You can feel the enthusiasm across Latin America’

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INTERVIEW: Luke Dandrea, Clone Connect, USA

Luke Dandrea is the CEO of Clone Connect, a top 3 search destination for CBD hemp cultivation and manufacturing at wholesale. He has interviewed more than 70 elite cultivators and sold to many publicly traded companies. Clone Connect has acquired 200 million seeds with licensing to sell into 26 countries for 2020. Luke is also CEO and creative director for DRIHP Hemp Clothing and Hemp to Save the World, and owner of Hydrocanna CBD infused hydration. 

HempToday: What’s your outlook on the Latin American & Caribbean markets, and how they will develop? How important is that part of the world to your business?

Luke Dandrea: It’s very important to us. You can feel the enthusiasm across Latin America. There’s an extremely high demand for quality genetics and that’s a major focus for us. In terms of the Caribbean, the potential is through the roof. The climate, the land mass available … we feel hemp can be a major difference-maker for farmers in that region, especially with a changing climate.

Meet Luke Dandrea at The Latin American & Caribbean Hemp Summit Nov. 8-9.

HT: What’s the key to building trust among the various constituencies in the value chain?

LD: We want that farmer to know there’s an honest company ready to help him sell his hard-earned biomass to real buyers. We want that broker to know that if he plays fair, there’s a spot for him at the table. We want that beginner – and the many thousands more like him joining our movement – to know that there’s a reputable place to find great genetics for their climate, whether they’re in Bakersfield or Bolivia.

HT: Tell us about the startup of Clone Connect.

LD: Our story started in clones. But what we soon realized was that the entire marijuana and hemp industry (clones, seeds, biomass, flower, isolate, distillate, etc.) needed a change for the better. Like many great companies before ours, Clone Connect was born from pain. In the early days of the legal cannabis industry, things were exciting, fast, promising – and dangerous. We learned that the hard way the first time we were ripped off on a clone sale. As the bad actors and snakes flooded this new industry, it became clear to us that our pain wasn’t unique. It seemed everyone had a similar story: a farmer duped into a bad futures contract; a broker cut out of a deal; a hemp beginner’s dreams dashed before a single plant sprouted when they realized their “feminized” seeds were, in fact, mixed.

HT: What really drives you and your company? What’s the mission?

LD: This isn’t a money grab. We aren’t 49ers. We work in hemp for one simple reason: we think it can save the world. As our industry rides the CBD wave of investment and entrepreneurship into the future, we believe industrial hemp will change everything – the fork you eat with, the shirt you wear, even the car you drive or the home you live in. That’s after we change the lives of countless farmers by offering them a cash crop that they can count on. Everyone is in the hemp game for something green; exactly what kind of green they’re after tells the real story. Us? We’re environmentalists. We’re dreamers. We’re fixers.

HT: How do you see hemp fitting into the larger picture — business, society, environment?

LD: Every so often there’s an opportunity for humanity to make a real leap forward, and it doesn’t always have to be a spaceship to Mars or a fancy artificially intelligent robot. We truly believe hemp is a game-changer, the rare kind that we all can benefit from – and, if we’re honest, the kind we sorely need.

HT: What are the keys to managing a company with investments in so many countries. How do you manage your time?

LD: I have a great team around me. Nobody can do it alone; surrounding yourself with capable people is probably the most important task a CEO has. I’m a hands-on guy, so learning to delegate was a process for me, one that has paid dividends quickly.

HT: Aside from the trust issues we’ve already discussed, what are the other challenges to the industry from Clone Connect’s perspective?

LD: Any time an industry is “exciting” or experiencing rapid growth, it’s also inherently volatile. There are people going broke in hemp. Part of our goal is to help mitigate those disasters – by supplying quality genetics and consulting, we can help farmers avoid worst-case scenarios, and that’s a win for everybody.

HT: Where do you see your company 5 years from now?

LD: It’s hard to say, because as I mentioned before, we’re big dreamers, and five years is a long time. I will say we believe industrial hemp is the long-term difference maker, and we aim to be very active in that arena, especially here in the Americas. Hopefully we’ll build a company we can be proud of that did its part to help move hemp forward.

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