With the passing of the Farm Bill, hemp acreage exploded across the United States. Unfortunately, the number of hemp processing facilities hasn’t grown at an equivalent rate. Without a buyer in place, many farmers have one burgeoning question – how to sell and/or process the hemp biomass they are about to harvest.
Paragon Processing hopes to be the answer for hemp farmers. Located about 30 miles south of Pueblo, in Colorado City, Colorado, Cannabis Tech toured the facility with company Co-President, Matt Evans and his wife, Nicole, as they discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by the hemp industry’s first harvest season since legalization.
Hemp Processing Breathes Life into Old Real Estate
Evans understands the weight of the burden on farmers to find buyers for their crops, and the pressure to do so before they are harvested. The first of its kind, Paragon Processing, offers a full gamut of post-harvest services for hemp farmers including storage, testing, processing, THC remediation, and packaging – all under one massive roof.
The Evans duo laughed as they told us, “Talk to the locals, and they’ll say, ‘Oh you mean the old Columbia House building?’” Once used as a distribution center for CDs and DVDs in the 90s, Paragon Processing recently acquired and converted the 250,000 sq. ft. building in southern Colorado, from a warehouse into a state-of-the-art hemp storage and processing mega-center.
Knowing that quality crude oil must first start with quality hemp, Evans and his partners, designed the business with processing safeguards to ensure the highest quality standards.
Incoming Hemp Biomass
The process begins by receiving the harvested, dried biomass from the farmer. As an untested product, the initial shipments are first quarantined in shipping containers. Three samples of each batch are taken, homogenized and sent to the lab to test for contaminants, heavy metals, and of course, cannabinoid potency. When the test results come back, within about 24 hours, the product which passes the tests is moved from quarantine into the massive storage facility to wait for processing. Any contaminated biomass is refused and returned to the farmer for destruction.
As a warehouse, the building came equipped with 13 dock-high loading docks, where the shipments of harvested, dried hemp biomass can be unloaded into the building. Although empty now, Evans told us, with the square footage and industrial shelving systems they’ve implemented, the facility has the capability of housing up to 50 million pounds of pelletized hemp biomass in a climate-controlled environment. Evans advised during our tour that pelletized hemp seems to be the best for processing as the pressure from the process actually breaks down the cell walls and allows molecular extraction of cannabinoids to happen more efficiently.
Proprietary Hemp Extraction
Evans stated that the overall goal of Paragon Processing is to bring farmers and businesses together. As such, Paragon also offers businesses hemp products from distillates, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum oils, to actual finished goods which include tinctures, topicals, and more.
Paragon Processing utilizes Superior Flow-branded, proprietary cryo-ethanol extraction equipment which can process up to 1 million pounds of hemp biomass into raw crude each month, as it stands today. Incredibly, this is just the start for Paragon, as Evans showed us the area they are building into and explained their expansion plans for the end of the year. This addition will allow them to process up to 3 million pounds of hemp biomass per month. However, their processing capabilities go beyond just crude oil extractions.
While full-spectrum extractions are most common, Evans recognizes the market demand for THC-free hemp products as well. As such, Paragon offers distillation and THC remediation. Using proprietary, patented technology, which Evans admits is currently running as a pilot but is ready to be scaled for full production, the company can efficiently remove THC from the crude entirely to produce a variety of broad-spectrum products. Unlike traditional chromatography, the undisclosed process doesn’t merely separate cannabinoids, it targets particular molecules and removes them without impacting the rest of the chemical structure of the crude oil.
Additionally, their processes allow the company to turn crops from industrialized harvests, into winterized crude as well as, produce products such as THC-free distillate, CBD isolate, CBG, CBN, and CBD focused products. Completing the full range of finished goods, Paragon Processing offers limitless opportunity for quality grown hemp.
Most impressive, the company doesn’t charge the farmer anything upfront to store the biomass for up to one year. So, for the farmer who is still searching for a buyer for their crops, they don’t have to pay for the storage until the biomass leaves the facility. In fact, the Paragon team assists in finding buyers and helps the farmers get the absolute most from their crops without all the complexities of trying to handle it themselves.
Additionally, because of the size of the facility and the capacity for throughput, Paragon Processing is on the hunt for eager, qualified staff to work in the processing center. With a recent press release, the company has announced that they are planning to fill 250 positions between now and the end of the year. Anticipating 20 percent of those roles as labor positions and 20 percent office staff, the rest will be highly skilled roles in science, engineering, and technology positions.
Whether you’re a farmer looking for a solution for your post-harvest needs, a business looking for quality hemp-derived, white-label CBD products, or a passionate, skilled individual looking to make the transition into the hemp industry, Paragon Processing is setting the stage for innovation and opportunity across the board.