Appleton greenhouse to grow industrial hemp

    Bob Aykens Memorial Florists & Greenhouses President holding a tray of hemp plants, December 4, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

    APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- It looks like marijuana, but it's not.

    It's industrial hemp, and it's growing in popularity in Wisconsin.

    And after an experimental growing season, an Appleton greenhouse is now making room to meet the expected demand.

    For nearly a century, Memorial Florists & Greenhouses has grown plants of all kinds, but a new look at an old variety has president Bob Aykens very interested.

    "They came in as cuttings, and they're in the process of being rooted and propagated," said Aykens, the business's president.

    Aykens says through a lease agreement with Colorado-based company Front Range Biosciences, a 15,000 square foot greenhouse will soon grow hemp.

    "Our production plan says 250,000 clones will go out of here for next spring," he said.

    The greenhouse will be fitted with lights, a network of nozzles will spray the plants on a regular basis. Farmers will place their orders, and the hemp will be delivered from the bio-secure area to the producers in the field.

    "I think to have that ability for a farmer to come in, and have the confidence of what they're planting, is is going to succeed, and prosper here in the state," said Rob Richard, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Senior Director of Governmental Relations.

    Richard represents hemp farmers around the state. He says last year, there were more than 200 licensed producers. He calls the first season a success, and expects that number to grow.

    Aykens agrees. He says a quarter of a million hemp plants is a good start.

    "That probably won't meet the demand, I'm going to guess. But we'll be looking at expanding upon what those needs are, once we know what they are," said Aykens.

    Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture Trade, and Consumer Protection oversees the hemp industry.

    Industrial hemp licensing applications are available for the 2019 season. You have until the end of the year to apply.

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