David H. Seber: President of Hemp Shield LLC
David Seber, President of the Hemp Shield Company LLC, wants to have a positive impact on the world. Years ago, while working in the redwood lumber business, he noticed that the amount of materials being extracted from mother nature was becoming more and more unsustainable over time. Fortunately, for a longtime businessman like David, every problem has a solution and, in this case, that solution is hemp. Realizing that he could make the same building materials at a fraction of the environmental cost, David co-founded Hemp Shield with hopes of giving back to mother nature. One of their first products, the Hemp Shield Wood Finish and Deck Sealer™ is unlocking the properties of hemp oil to offer significant improvements in finishes for exterior wood. This natural seed oil is much more readily accepted into wood fiber than other plant or petroleum sourced oils. Recently, Hemp Shield made an initial shipment of Hemp Shield Wood finish & Deck Sealer; to be used on the wood in the Giraffe section of a zoo in Denver, Colorado. Fortunately for us, David lowered his shield in time to sit down with us and share his mission.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
I first became interested in the application of industrial hemp for building materials back in 1990. I was inspired by the book, ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes’, and I wanted to repay the forest for giving me the chance to have a career that I loved.
What were you doing before?
I was in the redwood lumber business. I noticed that companies were taking massive amounts of fiber, lumber and biomass out of the forest and I wanted to see what I could do to lower that amount. I came across a thorough study, which revealed the only plant that could replace the amount of material we were taking from the forest, specifically in temperate climates, is hemp. My partner, William Conde, has been a long time cannabis activist, dating back to when I first met him in 1976. We formed C&S Specialty Builder’s supply in 1991 to develop hemp composites and building materials to replace wood. To us, wood was going to become a precious and rare commodity that should only be used where it could be seen or touched. It shouldn’t be concealed as structural members or behind a wall.
I think it is important to remember that the cannabis industry is still in the formative stage. Years from now it will look nothing like it does today.
We also realized that sustainability was a big factor in the future of building materials. It doesn’t make sense to take a tree, which can take anywhere from 200-3,000 years to mature, to make a product if that product might only last 50-75 years (like a house). Instead we could mature hemp over a 120-day span and build that same structure, which could last an equivalent amount of time (50-75Yrs). The latter process of the two is obviously more sustainable.
Once we realized this is the path we wanted to pursue, Mr. Conde and I hired W.S.U. Wood Materials Engineering Lab to produce the first modern composite panels; made with hemp fiber in order to demonstrate to the building materials industry, and the world, that hemp was as good or better than wood fiber in all construction composite applications. We succeeded in producing World Class MDF (medium density fiberboard – the “flagship product” of the composite industry). It was evident to everyone in the industry that if one could make MDF out of hemp, then all the other major applications (like particleboard, oriented strand board, etc) could also be made from hemp. The composite industry was the only world wide installed fiber manufacturing base that could use hemp fiber because the factories were already configured to use hemp as they are; requiring minimal changes.
The problem was and is one of scale in that the average composite plant uses 400-1400 DRY TONS of Fiber A DAY! All the current hemp being grown in North America, Europe and Russia combined wouldn’t be enough to run a composite mill for a few months. Since we are far away from the scale of production I was/am looking for hemp composite production, I am currently focused on Hemp Shield Wood Finish & Deck Seale and Hemp Shield Log Home Treatment. These products are revolutionary in their own area of stains and coatings while being the only modern building material, which contains hemp, commercially viable on the market.
All aspects of Hemp Shield products are both “state of the art” and revolutionary.
All aspects of Hemp Shield products are both “state of the art” and revolutionary. The hemp seed oil used in Hemp Shield has molecules that are smaller than all other oils. We use it in coatings so it penetrates the wood better than any comparable product while at the same time it generates a strong synergy amongst all the other components in Hemp Shield’s proprietary formulations. Simply put, Hemp Shield outperforms all other competing products in durability and anti-UV properties. Additionally, all of its components are the ”greenest”, the highest quality, and the highest concentration possible.
Right now, in what direction are you guiding your passion and energy?
The great focus of my energy is to take national market share of the wood finish & deck sealing market. Hemp Shield was consciously designed to be the first hemp-containing, “cross over” product to the general public. We want people to know that there is more to this plant than the medicinal and recreational aspects (although there is nothing wrong with those uses).
David Seber at the Seattle Hempfest
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I have had many mentors in my life; including William Conde, Alan Kapuler and others. However, two people stand out among the rest. First would be Tom Maloney, of WSU Wood Materials Engineering Lab, who taught me a great deal about composites science. Secondly, I would say that Steve Nisewander has had a big impact on me. Steve is a world-class paint chemist who co-created Hemp Shield with me.
What book have you read that you’ve been inspired by? Any particular read we should put on our list?
Tell us about an esteemed achievement of yours.
A while back I was asked, by Oregon State University, to participate in the creation of the world’s first university level course on industrial hemp. The ‘Course on Industrial Hemp WSE266’ is part of the eCampus for OSU’s College of Wood Engineering. That is an achievement that gives me great pride.
We want people to know that there is more to this plant than the medicinal and recreational aspects.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
“It’s not going to happen as fast as you think.” – Tom Maloney
What is the most important thing for us to know now about the legal cannabis industry?
I think it is important to remember that the cannabis industry is still in the formative stage. Years from now it will look nothing like it does today. As the true power of American agriculture takes over the cannabis crop, not only will there be a major change in pricing, but recreational and medicinal uses will become side products of industrial hemp; which is “the true 800lb Gorilla” in the back of the room.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
“I’d rather smoke a “Bay Gold’ than a Camel anyway. Even if the cost is double that of tobacco.”
What do you think about hemp as a sustainable replacement for wood? Do you think it will ever be widely adopted? Join the conversation and comment below!