Hempitecture Inc. is closing in on its new Jerome County-based manufacturing plant following its recent location finalization and its nearly $3.7 million funding campaign, exceeding its goal by over $1 million.
“The overwhelming response to our round I believe signals a strong interest and excitement in what we’re doing, and the fact that we’ve been supported by Idaho Department of Commerce…shows that Idaho is pro-business and supporting our business,” said Mattie Mead, co-founder of Hempitecture.
The 21,632-square-foot facility will be located at the Northbridge Junction industrial park directly off I-84 and US-93 in Jerome County, the company announced Sept. 20. The groundbreaking ceremony is to be determined.
Hempitecture announced its expansion into the Magic Valley back in June for its first manufacturing plant; this follows closely behind the state’s April 4 legalization of producing and transporting industrial hemp.
Mead explained the recent legalization has opened the door for cultivation and handling of industrial hemp, including for transport across the state. Mead said the company plans to take advantage of that in the future, and he hopes Jerome County area famers and others across Idaho will now be able to take advantage of growing industrial hemp — ultimately not having cannabinoid elements — either as a primary or rotational crop. Mead added benefits include strengthened biodiversity and soil rejuvenation, ultimately strengthening yields and soil quality for future harvests.
“Hempitecture brings a unique value to Jerome County and the Magic Valley — not only jobs for the company but new opportunities for our farmers to diversify their rotational crops using less water — in a desert I might add — and a product to our booming housing and commercial construction projects throughout the state and the Magic Valley,” said Jerome County Commissioner Charlie Howell in the Sept. 20 press release.
“The industrial hemp industry in Idaho particularly is definitely nascent given the recent legalization of industrial hemp here in the state, so I think it certainly will take time to have farmers come on board,” Mead said, adding there also will be the need for some infrastructure around industrial hemp cultivation — the seed types as well as the processing equipment.
“So, we don’t anticipate this to be something that farmers rush to right away, but I think the bottom line is that this is an agricultural opportunity that’s now made available to Idaho and rural farmers and rural communities where this opportunity didn’t exist in the past,” Mead said. “We’re definitely bullish on the future of industrial hemp in Idaho. But at this point in time, we’re intending to just really manufacture the products in which we’re currently building our facility for so that farmers can see how their crop would be used and can see that there is an industry emerging for this.”
Hempitecture’s trademarked product HempWool intends to be part of the construction supply chain, bringing sustainable insulation and other benefits to the building and housing sectors. The company will also be able to partner with other Idaho-based companies in the dairy and meat producing industries requiring shipping.
On Sept. 29 Hempitecture announced it selected an Original Equipment Manufacturing partner to assist in securing the equipment for Hempitecture’s state-of-the-art nonwoven insulation manufacturing line. The manufacturing line Hempitecture has agreed to purchase is compiled from nonwoven technologies existing across the textile recycling, fiber separation and mat-forming industries, according to a recent blog post. The equipment will be manufactured in Italy and then shipped to the United States prior to the planned spring 2022 opening.
“What this equipment will do is allow us to take fiber that is processed for our specific purpose and convert it into things like insulation,” Mead said. “Nonwovens is a hugely encompassing field; we can serve a lot of different industries with our manufacturing line. We do hope to partner with other Idaho-based companies so that they can have a more sustainable packaging solution for their cold-freight shipping needs and also lower their carbon footprint, as well as a carbon-capturing material.”
The facility will need at least five employees to be operational around opening, Mead said, and hiring is anticipated to start in the beginning of the new year. Mead added the company encourages those interested to reach out to Hempitecture. The expectation is to grow annually as capacity and demand for product grows.
Mead said he estimates needing to hire at least a dozen local contractors and others nearby to help with the commissioning phase.
At the beginning of June, Hempitecture announced an equity fundraising campaign through WeFunder designed to support the build out of this facility and by June 29 the $2.5 million goal was surpassed, according to the release. As of this writing $3.68 million has been raised. Mead said the company has not decided how it will use the additional investment dollars.
“It’s a really exciting time for us to have the successful fundraising round, because today, Hempitecture has been entirely bootstrapped,” Meade said. Over 1,400 investors — accredited and nonaccredited — have signed on.
Mead and his cofounder Tommy Gibbons were named on the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, according to the September announcement, and in May of 2021, Gibbons was selected to represent Hempitecture at a Department of Energy sponsored research fellowship program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee. A month later Hempitecture and its research partners at the University of Idaho’s College of Renewable Resources were awarded a $206,000 research grant from the Department of Commerce’s Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) program to advance research on heavy wool insulation — renewable and sustainable products — in the nation.
Access to the interstate and the pro-business climate in Jerome County contributed to the site selection, and it will allow Hempitecture to grow and expand in place, Mead said. The area’s agricultural history also contributed to the selection.
“In the not-too-distant future, we have a vision where industrial hemp is grown in Jerome or nearby in southern Idaho and it is converted into the raw material needed for our facility,” Mead said.
“We are so excited to welcome Hempitecture to southern Idaho and Jerome County,” Southern Idaho Economic Development Executive Director Connie Stopher said in the release. “The combination of sustainability, agricultural technology and innovation makes this a wonderful addition to the Magic Valley and the state of Idaho.”