A Ketchum-based company that makes sustainable building products out of hemp is opening a manufacturing plant in the Magic Valley.
Hempitecture will make its signature product, HempWool — a fiber insulation made from the hemp stalk — in a 20,000 square-foot facility in the Magic Valley.
Co-founder Matthew Mead said the company had been importing hemp-based insulation from overseas, but that was both a financial and environmental cost.
“We realized pretty quickly that we needed to on-shore the manufacturing of this product,” Mead said. The plant is supposed to open in 2022 and the company is fundraising for the facility now. But, it wasn’t always a guarantee it would be in Idaho.
Up until this year, Idaho was the only state that hadn’t legalized hemp, which made things difficult for the company. It wasn't operating illegally, Mead said, because it was dealing only with the stalk of the plant and not the leaves.
Still, he said if lawmakers didn’t legalize industrial hemp, Hempitecture might have reconsidered its plans to expand in Idaho.
“If this bill does not pass, we may be forced to look at other locations for our manufacturing concept,” Mead told the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee in March.
Gov. Brad Little signed the bill allowing the production of industrial hemp into law this year. It requires growers, and anyone in possession of industrial hemp, to have a license.
“Now, with Idaho being supportive of industrial hemp and restoring this as an agricultural commodity, we're afforded even more protection and opportunity,” Mead said in an interview.
In May the company was awarded an Idaho Department of Commerce grant of roughly $200,000 to partner with the University of Idaho on the product development of HempWool. The team will conduct insulation, fire resistance and thermal conductivity tests, according to the grant announcement.
“This innovation means exciting changes to the building industry in Idaho and beyond,” Idaho Department of Commerce Director Tom Kealey said.
Eventually, Hempitecture hopes to purchase hemp from Idaho farmers, Mead said. Right now, most of the supply comes from Montana and Alberta, Canada.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio