Next frontier

Features - Cover Story

Rancho Tissue Technologies expands into the evolving hemp market.

August 30, 2019

Rancho Tissue’s Hunter May, vice president of production, and founder Heather May are using their ornamental tissue culture knowledge to provide TC hemp.
Rob Andrew Photography

When Rancho Tissue Technologies founder Heather May recognized the value hemp could provide the green industry, she began the meticulous process of trialing the crop. Heather and her staff learned the best methods of propagating hemp and trialed it in the tissue culture lab and in the greenhouse.

“We quickly recognized how well hemp fit into our existing production models,” Heather says. “It fit into the protocols we already had set up for tropicals and succulents, so it wasn’t a tough learning curve for us.”

Rancho Tissue found that hemp cutting production fit in fairly well with its existing crops.
Rob Andrew Photography

In the greenhouse, this crop grows really quickly, “which growers will be happy to learn,” she adds. “We learned in the greenhouse that hemp requires humidity at the beginning of production and then it’s a heavy feeder. There are slightly different lighting requirements for this crop, as well.”

Rancho Tissue’s greenhouses were already equipped with a micromist system and BioTherm tubing to heat the benches. The company is installing new supplemental lighting for the hemp crop, she explains.

“Like any crop, growers need to have a good production plan in place, and it’s important to conduct trials,” she adds.

As a registered hemp cultivator with California’s San Diego County, Rancho Tissue Technologies produces tissue culture hemp at the lab in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. The lab provides custom contract growing for growers’ own selections, as well as tissue culture of the most in-demand hemp selections. Rancho Tissue will accept orders from registered hemp growers located in any U.S. state, and will also hold genetics for other hemp growers. The company can ship to any U.S. state once that state’s hemp regulations are in place.

Tissue culture hemp provides growers with clean stock that are true to type.

Rancho Tissue’s microcuttings and liners are grown for the fiber and CBD oil markets. The hemp-derived CBD market is expected to grow to $22 billion by 2022, according to a Brightfield Group report released last fall.

Nursery and greenhouse growers interested in adding hemp and hemp/CBD would benefit from tissue culture plants because they’re clean and true to type, Heather says.

“They don’t have to carry big amounts of mother stock from season to season and, depending on where they’re located, they can order any time of the year,” she adds.

There’s already been a “huge demand” for hemp tissue culture this year, she says.

Rancho Tissue’s hemp microcuttings and liners are grown for the fiber and CBD oil markets.

Intellectual property will be a critical issue with hemp and hemp-derived CBD crops. Currently there are open market varieties being grown and sold, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office clarified in May of this year that hemp businesses can apply for trademark registration, as long as their operations comply with the FDA’s regulations that hemp-derived CBD cannot be used as a food or beverage ingredient. Breeders have approached Rancho Tissue about growing their own genetics from tissue culture.

“In addition to my own experience in hemp tissue culture, our international team of researchers has worked with genetics from the horticulture industry’s leading companies for more than three decades, positioning us well to successfully produce quality, consistent tissue culture from any crop or category while providing the utmost protection for intellectual property,” Heather says.

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