IVEDC's Imperial Valley Energy Summit

WAYNE RICHMAN, executive director of California Hemp Foundation and the California Hemp Association, responds to queries about industrial hemp April 24 during the 12th annual Imperial Valley Energy Summit at IVC. JOSELITO N. VILLERO PHOTO

IMPERIAL — The Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation (IVEDC) hosted a three-day Imperial Valley Energy Summit April 24–26, bringing together industry leaders who presented current developments in energy and technology at IVC.

In a press release, IVEDC said the 12th annual summit focused on discussing technical advancements, development trends, sustainable solutions in agriculture, manufacturing, clean energy, minerals, water, and telecommunications. 

The summit opened with welcome remarks by Deborah McGarrey, IVDEC board chair, and Jonathan Weisgall of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. 

This was followed by a panel discussion on “Imperial Valley’s Natural Resources — The Promise of Opportunity: Past, Present and Future” and breakout sessions on the topics of bringing breakthrough energy technologies to Imperial Valley, plus preparation and access for the workforce.

In the afternoon, participants attended another panel discussion on “Modern Agriculture: New Crops, Manufacturing and Technologies.” Breakout sessions followed on algae and biofuels, how to start a business, and industrial hemp. 

Wayne Richman, executive director of the California Hemp Foundation and the California Hemp Association (CHA), was one of the breakout session speakers. According to Richman, luxury car manufacturers were already using these products on their panels and upholstery materials. Dave DiNapoli of the CHA joined him in responding to inquiries about industrial hemp from 25 attendees. 

With its rich agricultural resources, Imperial Valley is ripe for another crop that will bring economic growth to the county. 

Michael Kelley, District 3 Supervisor, said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed this week between the Imperial County and the California Hemp Association. 

“The MOU is a general agreement to design a hemp master plan for the county. This will include growing and processing facilities,” Richman said. 

Richman said a robust farming system is required for manufacturers who will need a predictable steady flow of raw materials for processing into products according to their capacities. “Otherwise, you can’t predict to grow a real business.” 

According to Supervisor Kelly, industrial hemp is already being grown in 600 acres of land. 

However, growing industrial hemp has to follow certain state and county guidelines given that industrial hemp is closely related to cannabis. Among them, industrial hemp must have a THC analysis test 30 days before harvest. By law, it must be tested and have no more than 0.3 % of THC, according to Richman. “Anything higher is technically a marijuana based on the law.” 

“One of our tasks is to look at varieties that could adapt in different regions, of which Imperial Valley is one of them. We will be screening those that are adaptable to heat and temperature in Imperial Valley,” said Oli Bachie, Ph.D., agronomy advisor with the Imperial County Cooperative Extension, associated with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

While crops mature in three to four months, screening of the industrial hemp and having a predictable steady supply of it may take some time in research and development before it becomes economically feasible.

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