Our success on our three acre pilot farm quickly segued into an agreement with a local farming family with a reputation for honesty, integrity, and leadership in the community. We had come into an agreement to farm 140 acres for research purposes related to genetics, industrial agriculture, harvesting techniques, irrigation techniques, integrated pest management, and carbon sequestration. This was a 46-fold increase in acreage compared to the previous farm, and the first industrial scale hemp farm in the state of California since prohibition.
Weeks after these seeds started to germinate, the lab results from our three acre pilot crop had arrived after being extracted and concentrated into a CO2 extract for research and development with children similar to Noah. Apothio learned that the crop contained trace amounts of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide that has been produced by DOW chemical company since 1965, and something that would be later banned after it was identified as a neurotoxin. Though the pilot farm had been practicing organic farming principles of the Rodale Institute for decades, the source of public water being used contained this poison; a relic from nearly a century of human nature to attempt to control nature.
As a permaculturalist whose values clashed with that of the paradigms of industrial agriculture, this was a trigger point for Jones, who has lost several children to exposure to similar abuses by chemical companies, and the subsequent abuse to our natural ecosystems that he looked to for the answers. The Apothio mission and strategy evolved to address these abuses, and innovate into solutions that addressed these fundamental challenges with industrial scale production. Whereas our organic practices while farming in the unfarmed Mojave produced a clean and unique end product, the nature of the organic methodology in Kern County became increasingly questionable due to a legacy of abuse and misuse of natural resources.
The product that could have been used to help thousands of children similar to Noah had been compromised, leading us to acknowledge that we would not be able to extract the 140 acre field using currently existing extraction methodologies. In an abundance of caution, we would store it until we found a solution that mitigated risk associated with potential contamination, and allocated this asset towards our research and development to pioneer new methods of extraction.
Apothio partnered with a publicly traded company in order to develop an extraction site in Arvin that would research emerging technology associated with water based extraction. These harmful reagents are water soluble, and could be easily removed from the oil by extracting with water via cavitation, a technology that the petroleum industry utilized in order to remove oil from shale. This joint venture would be responsible for extracting the material that would be coming from our current 140 acre farm, and subsequently, 512 acres that would be farmed the following year.
As this agreement came to fruition, Apothio leased a 30,000 square foot facility to build a cutting edge extraction facility. We quickly learned, as many do in their first few years navigating the cannabis industry, that there were constituents in this organization with questionable ethics. Instead of using the material from our grow in 2018, these bad actors transported marijuana across state lines and into our facility for extraction.
Contrary to many players in the industry, Apothio has always gone by the book, allowing legal counsel to help us navigate the tumultuous waters of a space whose regulatory landscape was and continues to be in a constant state of change. However, some actions are so explicitly illegal that they cannot be forgiven, and can compromise what is otherwise a very promising partnership. Our approach to any business relationship has always been that they live and die with trust. We could not risk five years of hard work to lose it due to a few bad actors. As a result, we were forced to notify the police, document the legal violation, and issue a ‘no trespass’ on the property intended for the extraction of our 2019 crop.
As the industry started to take note of the fact that our farm was likely the most successful in the country in terms of biomass per acre, we had created a powerful gravitational pull of industry leaders with solutions that addressed our concerns about the risk of contamination. These leaders had developed impressive infrastructure to extract the 19 million mature plants that stood at an impressive 15’ in height. A year had passed since the findings from our pilot crop, and our portfolio of extraction partners with alternative approaches to extraction, which would result in a safe and highly profitable end product, had matured extensively.
The time for harvest had arrived at the beginning of November. To say that this time was the most exciting moment of our lives would be an understatement. We put in five years of hard work, anticipation and hopes of the legalization of industrial hemp, and overcoming infinite obstacles to get to this point in time. The day after we began our harvest, the Kern County police accompanied by California Fish and Wildlife arrived at our fields on Friday, stating that they believe that the fields being grown were marijuana. After having met with local officials time and time again to officiate our legal status as an established agricultural research institution, this obviously came as a surprise. After all, we had been growing this product adjacent to their highways for over a year. At noon that Friday, when the courts were closed to our access for an appeal to have our case reviewed, our 19 million plants were plowed into the ground.
This event, documented in our legal complaint, went down as the largest wholesale destruction of private property in the history of the United States. But we were not defeated, and far from it. We had amassed a wealth of intangible assets, intellectual property, valuable and trusted relationships, and a library of unique and proprietary genetics that gave us a massive leg-up into a 2021 action plan and alliance that we could not be more proud of.