Ag minister visits hemp plant

Smoky Hemp Decortication Ltd.’s Frank Cote, left, and Ron Chailler, right, show Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation Minister RJ Sigurdson hemp samples.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Smoky Hemp Decortication Ltd. (SHDL) representatives, municipal leaders and dignitaries welcomed the Government of Alberta’s Agriculture and Irrigation Minister RJ Sigurdson to the facility on June 11.

SHDL was requested by the minister’s office to host the minister to discuss grant opportunities and concerns and to tour the new facility.

“We had a community benefit assessment done by a consulting firm called Lochaven and through that and our business plan, the estimate is that we will put $4 million annually into the economy,” SHDL chief executive officer Avis Gagne said during the meeting.

“This will be through things like full time jobs, contract payments to farmers for the hemp, and supplies and services in the area,” she adds.

Gagne indicated the process has been a little lengthier than they initially anticipated, but their team sees a great future for their facility and decortication in Canada.

“We’re proud of those numbers, it’s taken us a while to get here,” says Gagne.

“We’re still not there but we all truly believe that industrial hemp will be something spectacular in this province and across the Prairies.”

Gagne says with long daylight hours the trial fields that have been grown in the region have seen heights as tall as 11 feet. The potential for growth and success has attracted investors from around the region.

“Up to this point we have just under a million dollars in investment from the community at large,” she says.

“That includes the original five founders’ investment and the share offering of $450,000 of investment.”

Gagne explained the equipment the group is in the process of purchasing will be state-of-the-art.

Up to this point decortication has been the same for the last 200 years, using hammer mills to complete the process. The equipment SHDL has purchased is from a Quebec engineer who designs and manufactures equipment. She says decortication design will revolutionize decortication.

“It is really exciting,” she says of the equipment. “It is proprietary, we will be the first in the world to have it.”

Gagne says there is no waste in hemp decortication, every part of the plant is used. No water is required and there are no environmental impacts during the process.

Gagne says SHDL was approved for a Emerging Opportunities Grant in 2022, but because of the delays in procuring equipment they were unable to meet the criteria and had to back out of the grant. Their hope is they will be invited to apply for the grant again, however; already having purchased equipment they are concerned they wouldn’t be able to use the retroactive purchases as part of the grant.

The minister’s staff indicated they would have their grant team reach out to SHDL to confirm details and the minister said he would go through the finite detail to figure out if there is any flexibility in the grant.

The group also toured their plant with the minister, showing what they’ve achieved so far and the direction they will be heading in upcoming months.

SHDL’s hope is to have the facility near Donnelly fully functional by later this year.

Smoky Hemp Decortication Limited (SHDL) met with Government of Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation Minister RJ Sigurdson on June 11 to discuss grant opportunities and the progress they’re making to get the facility operational. Left-right are SHDL chief executive officer Avis Gagne, Sigurdson, Agriculture and Irrigation press secretary Jessi Rampton, SHDL Norm Boulet and SHDL Ron Chailler.
Members of Smoky Hemp Decortication Ltd. and local municipal leaders toured the new decortication plant near Donnelly with Government of Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation Minister RJ Sigurdson. Left to right are M.D. of Smoky River Reeve Robert Brochu, Ron Chailler, Norm Boulet, Sigurdson, Dan Labrecque, and Frank Cote.

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