Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Growing an industry: Businessman nets permit to research hemp in north country
When an entrepreneur says he wants to invest in a new industry that would likely boost economic growth in the north country, we should welcome his efforts with open arms.
The good news is that Marc P. Privitera has been encouraged by the state to do just this. He owns a business development firm called PreProcess Inc., and he plans to use the resources of this region to create a hemp processing industry.
Mr. Privitera and five other companies were recently issued permits through the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program. This will allow him to research industrial hemp processing, manufacturing and marketing.
He intends to plant hemp seeds in June at a 1-acre plots in the areas of Binghamton, Cobleskill, Copenhagen and Mannsville. Based on the research he conducts using the hemp grown at these sites, he hopes to construct a hemp processing hub in 2018 near Interstate 81.
Mr. Privitera has the credentials to make this idea succeed; he is a chemical engineer who specializes in hemp growth. His California firm is “a project leadership, process development and process engineering firm that delivers customized technical solutions to new entrepreneurial efforts as well as established industrial operating companies,” according to information from the company’s website. “We have experience with projects ranging in size from hundreds of thousands of dollars to billions of dollars in the mining, refining, food, pharma, consumer product, water, wastewater, energy and renewables markets.”
Last year, Mr. Privitera was awarded a fellowship with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He also was appointed to the Canadian International Minerals Technical Advisory Board. PreProcess Inc. won the 2010 Technology Pioneering award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Established in 2016, the state’s Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program was expanded to include both higher education institutions and private entities. It allows entrepreneurs such as Mr. Privitera to partner with colleges and universities to explore the possibilities of hemp through research.
The north country is ideal for growing hemp. The plant tolerates colder climates, requires no pesticides or herbicides, and needs only moderate amounts of water and fertilizer.
Hemp is regularly used to create many different items. These include clothes, cardboard and plastic — all biodegradable. Its seeds can be added to food items to boost their nutritional value, and the CBD oil from hemp can be used for medical purposes.
Mr. Privitera approached officials with Jefferson Community College about a potential collaboration, but they declined his offer. JCC President Carol C. McCoy said such an alliance would not fit in with the school’s academic programming as no one on faculty has expertise in this area, stating that the school’s decision was not based on the plant’s social stigma.
While hemp is a form of cannabis, its THC levels are much lower than that of marijuana. These levels are too low to have the impairing effect on individuals as experienced when smoking or eating marijuana. But many people continue to link hemp with marijuana, a misperception we must move beyond to enhance economic opportunities.
It’s good the state has issued Mr. Privitera a permit to begin his work. We hope that JCC reconsiders its position and takes advantages of the possibilities such a partnership would present. The potential for commercial success in this endeavor is real, but it will only happen if we embrace the opportunities available.