By Jean Lotus
Ketchum, ID-based Hempitecture, Inc., a pioneering U.S. company in hemp building materials, raised almost $1 million in the first two days through an online regulation crowdfunding investment campaign this week.
The company is seeking $2.5 million to build a manufacturing facility in Idaho’s Magic Valley to make their HempWool product, a hemp fiber insulation batt. Both accredited and non-accredited investors can support the company with investments starting at $100.
In Idaho, a state that was last to legalize industrial hemp, the Hempitecture crew has found enthusiasm from various state and local institutions that are helping their business.
“For the first time in the state of Idaho it seems we’re experiencing tailwinds instead of headwinds,” co-founder Mattie Mead, told Let’s Talk Hemp. Mead founded the company eight years ago with his partner and high school friend Tommy Gibbons.
The company will import machines for a manufacturing facility in a 600,000 square foot manufacturing and distribution space in which Hempitecture will be the first tenant. The factory will provide five local jobs the first year, and may expand up to 10 employees by year-two, Mead said.
The Magic Valley location, along Interstate 84, divides the states east and west of the Rocky Mountains. The factory will be within a 700 mile radius of the largest green building markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver, the company said.
Idaho is an ideal spot to process products from hemp growers and processors like IND Hemp in Montana and Alberta Canada.
“We view our location as a stop between where the raw materials are grown and we can convert into a value-added product, continue on its way to end-user markets,” Mead said.
“Our intention here is to provide an American manufacturing facility for American-grown hemp to make an American product,” he added.
The crowdfunding campaign wasn’t Hempitecture’s only recent success.
In May, Hempitecture and the University of Idaho received a $206,624 grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce through the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission Grant program.
The grant will fund academic research and conduct insulation, fire resistance and thermal conductivity tests of HempWool. The Idaho researchers will also conduct testing on hemp+lime or “hempcrete” materials, with any ASTM results being shared, open-source with other hemp building organizations like the US. Hemp Building Association, Mead said. Additionally, COO Tommy Gibbons will be attending a two-year funded Innovation Crossroads fellowship at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Research Integration Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to develop and commercialize new hemp-based building products starting in June.
Hempitecture introduced hemp fiber insulation batts to the United States two years ago, importing them from a Quebec manufacturer.
Fiberglass insulation, which contributes 30 percent of ozone-reducing emissions to the new-construction carbon footprint, represents about $5 billion of the $10 billion annual insulation market.
Hemp insulation batts can capture some of the green insulation market for builders who want to get away from fiberglass and spray foam insulation, the company believes.
Hempitecture has seen its sales grow by 800% year over year, and projects that HempWool will bring in $35-$40 million per year in five years.
The company hopes to use the new facility as a prototype for other factories around the United States.
“I’m excited and optimistic,” Mead said. “This is where the real work begins. This manufacturing facility is a huge opportunity for our people and our environment and our business,” he added.
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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.