Who's Laughing Now. Oilseed Works Wins 2011 Earth Day Small Business Award


Metro News; by: Alex Newman www.integritycommunications.ca

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, goes the song. Greg Herriott got the same reaction in the early 90s when he first tried peddling hemp as food.

It’s because of the cannabis connection, explains Herriott whose company Oilseed Works won the Earth Day Canada 2011 Small Business Award. Initially, though, he wasn’t interested in creating a company to sell hemp. He only wanted to create a marketing campaign to showcase his graphic design firm’s abilities. And when a close friend living in Oregon sent him info about industrial hempseed oil, he recognized its promotional aspects immediately.
But further research revealed so many environmental and health benefits that Herriott thought he might be on to something. The “ad campaign” generated such a positive response, he filed trademark applications, tried cold-pressing the hempseed oil, and shopped it around.

That’s when some people laughed, though others were intrigued, Herriott says. Hemp oil’s health benefits – an 82% concentrate of essential fatty acids including Omega 3 and naturally occurring antioxidants – were virtually unknown.

In Manitoba, though, there was more interest, so Herriott formed a corporation there and started cold pressing oil. But when things stalled he and his wife decided to launch their own enterprise – Oilseed Works www.hempola.com which creates products made from non-genetically modified oilseeds – and purchased a 50-acre farm north of Barrie, ON, to grow them.

That same year, 1999, they developed a line of salad dressings, working with Daniel & Daniel, and then experimented with turning hemp into flour for baking. A by-product of the oil is a pellet formed seed cake, which can be turned into dense 40% protein flour, ideal for heavy breads. Being naturally gluten free, it’s also suitable for wheat allergies.

Hemp flour and protein powder were catching on and others started to produce it. Since flour couldn’t be made without cold-pressing oil, it left the Herriotts with an oil overstock. They knew from research, though, that biodiesel could be made from hemp. Produced in 100-litre batches, the fuel ran all the farm’s machinery.

The bigger environmental potential prompted the Herriotts to create Flour Power, a method of growing hemp and converting it to flour and carbon neutral bio-fuel. Generating interest in Ontario is slow going, but they figure it will eventually catch on. Especially in developing nations, he adds, where the benefits would be vast.

Inexpensive to cultivate and drought tolerant, hemp is ideal for poor arid climates.

1000 acres of hemp yields 300 tonnes of flour or enough bread to provide 2000 calories a day to nearly 2000 people.

It also yields 130,000 litres of oil – eight times what’s required to grow the new crop.

It doesn’t usually require irrigation or conventional fertilizers, leaves nutrients behind in the field, and yields two to three harvests a year.

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