New Estonian hemp cultivar offers super low THC levels, plump seeds

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An Estonian company has developed an EU-approved hemp grain variety that expresses less than 0.03% THC on the field, giving farmers a planting option certain to remain well within the European limit of 0.20%.

The new variety, named Estica, was developed by Estonian Organic Protein Cooperation (EOPC), a leading European producer of hempseed-based food products, in cooperation with Dutch breeder Globe Seeds B.V.

“We wanted to create a variety with bigger seed size, and suitable to grow in our region,” said Ardi Oja, EOPC’s CEO, noting the Baltic region is limited to hemp varieties that mature in 110 days.

4 years of tests

Oja said field tests over the past 4 years in Estonia, Holland and Hungary showed Estica can produce 1.4-1.6 tons of grain per hectare, with average seed size 4 mm in diameter, and a very low THC level in the seeds themselves of 0.4-0.8 mg/kg.

Oja sees initial markets for Estica in Europe because the variety is well below the EU’s restrictive THC guidance values, and said food producers who use Estica for seeds or oil don’t have to worry about THC levels anymore.

The new variety was registered for the EU catalogue of plant varieties in December 2021; that means farmers who plant Estica can be eligible for direct European Union farming subsidies.

In addition to now being available on the commercial planting seed market, Estica will play a key role in EOPC’s fast-growing food business, Oja said. The company will plant the variety on roughly 1,500 hectares this year to process into de-hulled seed and a range of protein powder and oil products which make up EOPC’s main product lines.

More than hype

Estica growing in Estonian hemp fields.

“Demand is increasing year-by-year, and it’s good to see that consumers acknowledge the benefits of hemp products more and more. It shows that hemp has arrived as a staple in consumers’ meals,” Oja said. “The growth shows the sector has established a strong foundation, and that hempseed food is not just short-term hype.”

One of Europe’s leading organic hemp producers, EOPC boasts one of the biggest seed de-hulling factories on the continent where it turns out products for bulk and white label sales. All of the company’s food products are derived from industrial hemp grown locally in Estonia and processed under ISO 22000, Organic label, and HACCP standards.

EOPC supplies local business customers and ships to more than 20 countries around the world, with key markets in Scandinavia, South Korea, Netherlands and Germany.

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