Hana Gabrielova: Hemp Farming in the Czech Republic

Hana-Hempoint

Hana Gabrielová, CEO of Hempoint, studied agriculture in the Czech Republic where she learned about the historical importance of hemp farming in her country. After working for several environmental NGOs, she decided to shift her focus to creating a company utilizing a once traditional Czech crop in new and exciting ways. Thus, in 2010 Hempoint was born.

Hempoint’s product range boasts around 30 wonderfully tasty hemp based products which they currently sell throughout Europe. It includes a selection of hemp teas, hemp seed cookies, hemp oil and even hemp seed paste (like peanut butter only hempier!).

They also advise farmers on growing hemp as well as importing and exporting hemp seeds for sowing. If that’s not already enough they also undertake research and development on hemp growing and processing. As you can imagine, she’s a very busy woman and is a regular speaker at cannabis and hemp related events in Europe.

Hana is a positive hemp and cannabis crusader and I first met her in Basque country in the north of Spain at an event hosted by a local Cannabis Social Club. It was a pleasure to catch up with her again to find out about Hempoint and the many healthy and environmentally sound food items they produce.

What’s it like to work in the Czech Republic hemp industry? Are there any obstacles or are the authorities supportive?

We don’t get support from our government. The Ministry of Agriculture supports hemp growers with a small subsidy for seeds and also for processing the fiber, but there are few other chances to get support beyond that.

The Ministry of Agriculture supports hemp growers with a small subsidy for seeds and also for processing the fiber, but there are few other chances to get support beyond that.

For the most part, the Czech hemp industry is working independently from one another. There are meeting and networking events occasionally, and some of them are associated under the Hemp and Flax association. This was made from the Flax association, so there are two interests coming together which can sometimes make it difficult for members to vote on priorities under one unified landscape.

Tell us what Hempoint is all about.

Hempoint is a business which grows hemp in cooperation with other farmers and produces food products made from hemp seeds, fiber, and flowers. Currently, we have a collection of around 30 of our own edible products. We also do consulting and distribution of hemp seeds to local farmers.

How has Hempoint evolved over time, do you plan to export?

We started to grow on one hectare (10000 m2) and now we are growing on ten’s of hectares so we have been busy growing and hopefully will continue to do so.

Last year we started to create all our packaging in English and Spanish so we are looking to expand beyond the Czech Republic.

How do you select and develop your products?

Some of Hempoint’s products are developed in cooperation with other companies which have specialized equipment and already making nice products. We bring them a recipe or we create it together and then they make it for us. Once produced we put our label on it and distribute. Our lines of teas and salts were made in cooperation with a friend who is a big fan of natural herbal products.

For health, hemp is an ideal source of Omega-6 & 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a perfectly balanced ratio of 3:1.

Hemp chips were created on our demand working with a specialist company. The gentlemen who makes them has his own collection of similar products but didn’t have anything with hemp. Usually, we develop new products with people or companies who are open for new tests and challenges.

You seem closely involved with the farming as well as the processing, is this an important aspect of the business?

I studied at the faculty of agriculture at the University of South Bohemia, in České Budějovice, so field and processing is something that we are trying to develop in affiliation with Biofarma Sasov, with whom we have a very close cooperation. Without good agrotechnology care and processing standards, you can’t control the quality, which is vital so that we can add value to our products.

What’s Biofarma Sasov?

Biofarma Sasov has 500 Hectares of bio farmland and are focused on raising livestock (mostly pigs and cows). They have their own slaughterhouse and meat processing facility. Also, they use hemp to feed their livestock in addition to selling it themselves. In 2015, they dedicated 60 hectares to growing hemp.

What are the advantages of using hemp in food?

For the environment, hemp naturally improves soil quality, so crops grown after hemp, in the same soil, will produce better products themselves. The quick involvement of the hemp plant on the beginning of their grow reduces weed growth. Hemp also protects soil against erosion and excessive drying. It is a good crop for ecological agriculture because it can grow without pesticides or herbicides. To fertilize, one can simply use manure from cows or other animals. On our farm, we use Digestat, which is a side product made by our biogas power station.

For health, hemp is an ideal source of Omega-6 & 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a perfectly balanced ratio of 3:1. Hemp seed oil is a great source of vitamin E, a vitamin which is lacking in a lot of other common table oils. Among its numerous health benefits, hemp protein is highly digestible and in a form that is easily recognized by the human body. Hemp also contains an interesting array of vitamins and minerals.

On a European level, what changes do you think could be implemented to encourage hemp production across member states and what improvements could Europe gain from this?

We are still missing the THC limits for food production. Many states in EU still have zero tolerance for THC in food products which is very difficult to make because THC will be always part of the hemp plant even in if it is a small percentage. This creates difficulties to the whole market and our efforts to distribute across Europe. There are other issues regarding quality, as there are no independently provided, unifying standards or certifications in place.

Among its numerous health benefits, hemp protein is highly digestible and in a form that is easily recognized by the human body.

In the EU, there are a lot of companies doing extractions and producing CBD but there is no quality control from field to product. This is something we as an industry should improve soon.

On a personal level, how did you find your way into this sector? What are your motivations for working in this space?

I studied at the agricultural university where, during my thesis, I learned about hemp use. Later on, I became a member of the NGO Konopa, who focuses on popularizing industrial hemp use in the Czech Republic.

I worked a long time for them as a volunteer, part of this time I was also leading the NGO, but still had other jobs. Five years ago, I decided to open my own company because I was working for an environmental NGO on projects focusing on uranium mining or nuclear waste storage issues. Both these issues are so difficult to campaign and educate the public that I decided that it would be much easier for me to make a positive impact on the environment by spending my time working with hemp.

Are there any other projects you are working on beyond Hempoint that you would like to discuss?

2 years ago, my colleagues from Prague and I started a patient organization called KOPAC where we try to bring information to patients. Our information is provided by ASA (Americans for Safe Access), an organization based in the US.

In the last few weeks, I have been interested in their Patient Focused Certification program.

With Mendel Museum in Brno, we are preparing an international exhibition about cannabis which should be open for visitors in March 2016. I also cooperate as a consultant with some universities and research institutes who are interesting in hemp.

What are your thoughts on how Hemp is perceived overseas? How do you think the lack of certifications and safety standards impacts the process of overseas production? Join the conversation and comment below!