We sat down with CEO and founder of iHEMPx, Mike Leago, and asked him to share a bit about his journey in the hemp industry and how iHEMPx came to be the leading force it is today. Here’s what he had to say…
Q: What is your background in farming and in hemp?
I got into hemp farming and production out of the cannabis industry in 2015. I started a hemp farm with a friend in Longmont, Colorado. We learned through experience the differences between indoor cultivation and outdoor cultivation. We had to learn most lessons the hard way, but we still had a successful first season.
Q: What inspired you to start iHEMPx?
I realized that the largest need for the industry was more connectivity and more support for the farmers and growers getting into the industry, and the other suppliers and other people in the supply chain, so decided to found International Hemp Exchange as a result. The idea with International Hemp Exchange was to give farmers, processors, and retailers access to product and connectivity with others in the industry that were doing things the right way. It started off more on the retail side—think Amazon for CBD when there weren’t a lot of options for somebody producing branded product—but it quickly evolved into a tremendous amount of wholesale demand and supply-chain support.
Q: What do you see for the future of iHEMPx?
I see iHEMPx having a foothold in the supply chain of Hemp, both domestically and internationally. I want to give farmers, processors, and brands consistency, reliability, and support for the effort they’re putting into the industry. Because of this, we plan to be vertically integrated by producing seed and working directly with farmers. In an effort to provide the best support for the supply chain, we need to have a more strategic approach, which means working with the best when it comes to genetics, helping and supporting farmers across the country, and figuring out who the best and most reliable partners are for a consistent supply chain. Similarly with extraction, we will be working with some of the best and most reliable partners in the country, as well as investing into our own infrastructure and technology.
Q: Can iHEMPx assist with supply chain?
Yes, particularly in regions like Oregon, Colorado, California, Nevada, Kentucky, and North Carolina. We really have some great resources at our disposal in Oregon, Colorado, California, and Nevada. We’ll continue to expand and have more reach with farmers all over the country.
Q: What makes iHEMPX a powerful partner?
It is our track record. You would be hard pressed to find somebody who has had a bad experience with us anywhere in the supply chain and that is what we pride ourselves on. We are here to do good business and be good stewards to the hemp industry and the hemp supply chain. Our reputation shows that we go about this with the right ethos and we’re in it for the right reasons. While it is a profitable industry, it is also one that is very rewarding to communities and the planet. Humans and animals all over the world will benefit from hemp being reintroduced into society. So, we are here to be a conduit for that to happen in a positive way and connect people that want to be good stewards of the land and of business.
Partnering With The Best
Q: Why was HGH chosen as a partner?
We were the first licensed bonded hemp broker in the US and we’ve been helping farmers buy and source genetics since 2016. About a year ago, we were just overwhelmed with the number of seed inquiries, particularly those regarding feminized seed. We had a relationship with HGH seed and worked with them on a number of deals to help farmers find a high-quality seed. We had farmers reaching out to us to see if we could help them source HGH seed over anything else on the market and knew that since we were local to HGH we may have access.
We ended up working with HGH quite a bit and had some really great experiences, other than that there were not enough seeds to go around for all the demand. When we started realizing that HGH only had a certain allotment that we could help bring to the market, we started working with a handful of other companies that were producing and selling seed. We had some really terrible and expensive experiences.
We didn’t get the seeds we were promised, we didn’t get feminized seeds from a couple of groups that were promising those to us. We ended up having to go out of our way a lot because it is our ethos to make deals right for our farmers even if that means coming out of pocket on some really large deals to get our clients what they needed to have a successful season.
So, once the dust settled from a few of those bad experiences, we realized that it was going to be imperative to partner with the best. Since we had not had any negative experiences with HGH and had only heard positive things from farmers that had been growing it…they were our first choice. After months of working together on different ideas and ways to make it happen, we identified Oregon as a market that we could help HGH break into. We partnered on a production facility in Oregon to produce, market, and sell their genetics and established ourselves as a national and global sales partners for HGH to help them field inquiries and spread the reach and brand of their company.
Q: Why is HGH the best?
Like I said before, it is the track record. HGH started in 2014 in Colorado with one of the first hemp farms in the country and has been putting out quality reliable seed ever since. They were really one of the first to identify this niche opportunity and put out the highest quality product and ramp up production, genetic development. HGH genetics were used in many of those breeding programs and imitated across the country. If you look at it from the perspective that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”, no one is being imitated more than HGH right now.
I think they have created the premium quality boutique high-percentage CBD varieties that can still be compliant. Their compliance record and the ability for the total THC to remain under .3% while still having some really high and really attractive CBD values is outstanding. Also, for the total composite of the plant once it is harvested and homogenized to remain high in those attractive cannabinoids and compounds is exceptional.
Q: What does the future look like for the partnership, hemp, and iHEMPx?
It’s hard to talk about the future because I either get pretty far out there or I come back to the fact that the world of hemp can change so quickly. As we are identified as a leader and innovator in looking at new opportunities, I am continuously amazed at what is brought to the table.
Right now it is the opportunity to partner with HGH genetics. We are putting a lot of our resources toward developing new genetics, bigger production facilities, more distribution channels both domestically and globally. As you do that, it creates not just ripples, but massive waves. HGH is the leader in genetics right now so we are seeing first hand, the amount of farmers that are converting, the acreage that’s going up, and the rising global demand. It’s hard not to feel the effects all of these things are going to have downstream.
It feels huge when you look at the total biomass produced, the total amount of drying and harvesting infrastructure that’s going to need to be in place, the amount of extraction capabilities that need to be set up in order to utilize that material, and then ultimately the market for all for that. Ultimately it comes down to the consumer realizing the benefit and us having the paths to market. Whether as a daily supplement, part of their skincare regiment, or pain management in the athletic world, there are countless ways that CBD can be introduced to more products. But it comes down to having the green light to put it in these products and put these cannabinoids, compounds, and terpenes into all these different products around the world.
If all these things line up, it will take off like crazy. If they don’t line up, we are going to experience massive bottlenecks. In the season, in drying, in extraction, having all this supply and then having the FDA clamp down on it and saying “ you guys don’t have any access to the consumer”. There is a lot to be determined in the future, but we continue to hit things on a trajectory and pace that continues to grow exponentially and overcome these bottlenecks. If we continue on that trajectory, it’s going to be a fascinating thing to see unfold because it’s having a global impact today and we are only at the tip of the iceberg.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview: State Of The Industry