A Poland-based hemp innovation hub has sparked initiatives in hemp proteins, plant-based foods and biocomposites that can replace wood as it pursues a whole-plant strategy and continues to attract industrial partners and investors.
The company, East Hemp Group, was recently joined by Polish hemp veteran Jacek Kramarz, an investor who also serves as vice president, with responsibilities for strategy, sales and business development.
Kramarz said East Hemp is targeting those products and sectors that have ecological as well as business potential.
Formed by Polish venture capitalists, the Lublin-based holding group has already launched East Hemp Proteins after raising one million zlotys (~€216,000/$244,000) in pre-seed round funding from Polish investors Platinium Alfa Investment Fund. That unit is working on technologies to isolate hemp protein to more than 70% purity, and is setting up a laboratory in a technology park in the city of Puławy where it plans to start pilot-scale production this spring.
“We are investing in the sustainable economy of the future based on the pro-ecological benefits of hemp,” Kramarz said. “We look for uses of hemp that will respond to the challenges related to the transformation of the global economy to a more sustainable model.”
East Hemp’s management team first acts as founders, leading the startups through early stages. “We are fully on-board and dive deep into selected projects by investigating their market potential, proving the technology, attracting industrial partners and providing capital while recruiting management and expert teams to take those companies forward,” Kramarz said.
2 projects on tap
The company is set to launch two projects in the first quarter of 2022. East Hemp is starting an enterprise that will turn out fiber-based structural materials, which it sees as a potential replacement material for wood in furniture making in Poland, the fourth biggest exporter of furniture in the world. The material can also be used in flooring and other finishing products.
The second venture is developing meat alternatives based on texturized hemp protein to address the fast-growing trend toward plant-based foods.
Kramarz said East Hemp is building out the holding group to take public within three years.
Kramarz until earlier this year was Director of Business Development at CBD maker HemPoland, which he and partners sold to Canada’s The Green Organic Dutchman in 2018 for $15.5 million. A licensed securities broker, he previously worked in management consulting in Vienna where he coordinated international projects in company ownership and restructuring. He currently serves on the board of directors at the European Industrial Hemp Association.
Other principals in the company are Piotr Pietras, East Hemp’s co-founder and CEO, a technology specialist who has worked with startups through management positions in business accelerators in Poland; and Kris Kusiak, a technology entrepreneur with experience in enterprise development and funding.