A Fort Lupton plant is starting to test and process Colorado's hemp harvest, turning it into pulp that can be used to make paper, sugar -- even biofuels.
It's nickname may be "ditch weed," but the PureVision Technology processing plant in Ft. Lupton is turning Colorado's newest cash crop into something much more valuable.
The hemp plant is cannabis without the psychoactive properties and growing hemp became legal in Colorado last year, along with the recreational marijuana vote
"I would say it grows like a weed. You throw it in the ground and watch it grow," said Dani Billings, who started growing hemp last year, and was amazed at the low-water usage and high yield.
But hemp is still illegal under federal law, so processing facilities are hard to find, and most processing has been done by hand.
That's where Purevision Technology steps in.
Ed Lehrbuger, the company's president and CEO, gave 7NEWS Reporter Jaclyn Allen a tour of his pilot plant, where scientists are using new technology to quickly turn hemp stalks into raw materials, such as pulp that could be used to make paper or sugar to make biofuels -- a sustainable alternative to oil.
"Some of our clients are specifically trying to get away from oil-based products that they sell globally to bio-based products," said Lehrbuger.
Purvision has been processing corn stover and wheat stalks for years, but hemp farmers like Dani Billings are driving a new demand to process hemp.
"It's going to save the world. It has thousands of uses, and it's sustainable," said Billings. "Clothes, shoes, chairs, literally everything that we are in right now can be made from hemp. It just needs to get going."
Once they get enough hemp, the pilot plant will process a half-ton a day, and they plan to scale up to 25 tons a day by the fall in a larger facility.
From growing the plant to processing the stalks to making the paper, said Lehrbuger, Colorado is being called "Silicon Valley of Hemp," turning so-called ditch weed into a hot commodity.