By Elizabeth Lunt
From its base in Monte Vista, Colorado, Global Fiber Processing works to empower farmers to thrive in the hemp industry. The company now seeks to expand its footprint in the United States and abroad. Global Fiber Processing opened its processing facility doors in July 2022 and has quickly expanded to running two shifts to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, its Formation Ag subsidiary has seen triple-digit growth since 2020 that is not slowing down.
Formation Ag, a wholly owned subsidiary of Global Fiber, works with farmers to develop technology to handle hemp from A to Z — from planting to the decortication of American hemp at an industrial scale.
According to Global Fiber’s website, the company has “simplified the decortication process to give manufacturers access to the cleanest sized hemp hurd & fiber materials in the United States, making the purchase of raw materials more reliable, efficient, and economical than any other source.”
Global Fiber also serves as a consultant to farmers and manufacturers, helping with a range of challenges throughout the hemp supply chain.
Melissa Peterson, managing member at Global Fiber Processing, previously worked with specialty crops such as grapes and hops for the craft beverage market. With the legalization of hemp nationwide in 2018, she said, it was a natural step for her to get involved with hemp education.
“I jumped right in,” she said.
In 2018, at the U.S. Hemp Growers Conference & Expo in Madison, Wis., Peterson met Corbett Hefner, today the chief executive R&D officer for Global Fiber. Hefner, who was working in plastic produce packaging, became fascinated with hemp’s potential.
Along with Andrew and Jacob Bish and Margaret MacKenzie, who all had experience in hemp and who are today partners in Global Fiber Processing, Peterson and Hefner began working with farmers interested in growing hemp.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that, to succeed as a company, Global Fiber would need a soup-to-nuts approach, which led to the addition of business partners Tony Andrews, Martin Amschler and Jeff Manion.
“We realized we would have to do everything to build the supply chain,” Hefner said.
Today, Global Fiber produces and delivers consistently sized and cleaned hurd – the inner core of the hemp stalk – for bedding and hempcrete. The company focuses on clean products with reduced dust and can reconfigure its decortication machine for any sized output. The hurd is typically used to replace traditional building materials, absorbents, plastics and animal bedding because it is generally lighter, more absorbent, more sustainable and more cost-efficient, according to Global Fiber.
“We sell builder-grade hurd,” Hefner said. “When builders visit the facility, we get compliments on how clean and dust-free our hurd is. It’s really exciting to watch the hurd go from the facility and then see photos from these creative builders.”
Saying hemp “will do almost anything you want to do with it,” Hefner said he holds out hope that more hemp-based, environmentally friendly products will be developed.
One potentially successful product is hemp animal bedding. Global Fiber is working with a Colorado farm to study five horses and their reactions to different bedding. The company is also working with a veterinarian who tests horses’ breathing and general health after they have been in hurd bedding and in pine bedding. The vet found that dust from pine shavings causes allergies while hemp hurd bedding does not.
Peterson reports that Global Fiber Processing/Formation Ag has been fielding requests from about 15 states, including requests from private investors, farmers and state agriculture departments interested in establishing decortication facilities. The company is also selling machinery and processed hurd and fiber internationally and has been contacted by people in Portugal, Australia, Uruguay, Britain and elsewhere who want to partner and develop the hemp supply chain.
“We are writing the book,” Peterson said. “It’s not easy. Everything we are doing is brand new. Writing SOPs, testing genetics, working with manufacturers to help develop processing specs on hurd and fiber. Some days I want to rip my hair out, but it’s so exciting.”
Hefner says he has been pleased to see that hemp farming machines in Portugal have enabled families to get back to farming.
“We have got to have healthy farms,” he said. “It’s a key to everything that happens in the world – otherwise we get hungry fast.”
Meanwhile, Global Fiber is seeking to expand in the United States, with plans for a facility in the Midwest.
“Global Fiber has exciting things in the pipeline and will announce them as soon as we ink our deals,” the company said. “We are building GFP to be close to the farmers and manufacturers; we believe it is the only way for farms to make money and manufacturers to buy processed raw hemp at a good price.”
Peterson said it is a “never-ending dial for dollars” to fund expansion. Some investors want to invest in a facility and have Global Fiber operate it, she said, while others want to help fund farms close to them. Interest in non-cannabinoid hemp products is growing, she said.
Said Hefner: “The whole 25,000 uses of hemp thing is real. You have to be flexible, resilient and patient. If you think this is easy work, this is not the game for you.”