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New horizons open for industrial hemp in Greece

Yiannis Xydis, Grigoris Panagopoulos and Thanasis Bakogeorgos abandoned their former business life, invested in the area of Ilia and a few weeks ago collected their first crop from a crop of 80 acres.

Yiannis Xydis, Grigoris Panagopoulos and Thanasis Bakogeorgos abandoned their former business life, invested in the area of Ilia and a few weeks ago collected their first crop from a crop of 80 acres.

The Athens-Macedonian News Agency was at the “headquarters” of their company, recorded the process and tried to solve any questions that arise around the issue of cannabis cultivation.

Through the interview of Yiannis Xydis to ANA-MPA and Giorgos Mantaios, everything you would like to know about the plant with its countless properties is revealed. For the investment opportunities, the huge growth potential, the launch of agricultural production.

The beginning

The three friends have been “packed” for years in the field of business. “We were involved with photovoltaics for about 8 years until 2014. After 2015 when these things were cut, we started thinking about what else to do. We decided to invest in cannabis in Ancient Olympia, due to the locality of Grigoris (Panagopoulos), while we also had photovoltaics in Lechaina, Andravida, Ancient Olympia”, explained Yiannis Xydis, production and administration engineer of ntua and added: “We had contacts with farmers, local bodies, so the place was familiar. In 2017 we did the first experimental cultivation of 2-3 acres in Ancient Olympia. Even this year, when the crop was bigger (80 acres), I think we are in an experimental stage. Without being a farmer, I think it takes 3-4 years of experience to cultivate something right. We adapt the already existing tools for harvesting, harvesting, sowing. There are of course specialized machines produced in the Netherlands and Italy.”

The “terrible plant”

The applications of industrial hemp are countless. The most popular include personal care products, food, textiles. In addition, it is used in the construction sector and for two decades walls have been constructed from this plant-concrete (hempcrete according to concrete). Electric vehicles can now place cannabis in their capacitors instead of the more expensive graphite, and it also serves as “ink” on three-dimensional printers.

Mr. Xydis calls it “a terrible plant, as you have the ability not to throw anything away”. Cannabis consists of:

– the seed which produces all edibles: oil, flour, pure protein.

– the fiber that we get from the trunk and it is the industrial part. It is used in clothes, insulation materials, capacitors of electric cars. Even the wood of the trunk, however, is not thrown away. It can be used either as a pellet, or even as a horsebedding substrate for horse racing!

– the flower containing cannabinoids for medicinal use.

Here, too, the need arises for a first introduction to the substances produced by the cannabis flower. The most important and controversial is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). It is a psychoactive drug when its content exceeds 10%. According to the current legislation, industrial hemp varieties must be below 0.2%. In other words, it does not in the slightest cause the consequences of a drug.

Industrial hemp is not an agricultural modernity nor a result of evolution. As stated in the relevant cultivation guide issued by the General Directorate of Agricultural Research: “Hemp belongs to the olive – textile plants and the species Cannabis sativa L is used since the Neolithic period for the production of numerous products and by-products In our country, cannabis was cultivated for centuries for the production of cords and fabrics – the first reference to it is found in 450 BC in Herodotus”.

More than 250,000 acres are cultivated in Europe based on a 2015 study, so this number has increased in recent years. The Ministry of Rural Development has published detailed instructions on the selection and preparation of the field, the harvest and of course the on-the-spot checks that are necessary.

“To grow industrial hemp”, explains Mr. Xydis- “we have to procure specific varieties approved by the EU (55-60 varieties). The ministry of rural development makes regular checks. The samples are sent to a certified laboratory so the amount of THC is always controlled.”

He continues: “The second most well-known substance produced is cannabidiol (CBD). Ingredient which we get from the flower by extraction. It is not psychotropic, it is not one of the drugs even if it is in high content.”

The cultivation and processing of industrial hemp is a pole of attraction

At the moment the three entrepreneurs are engaged in the harvesting and processing of seeds, mainly for industrial use. Yiannis Xydis analyzes the way the business operates, but also the data that could attract farmers or investors to this rapidly growing new market.

“We deal with the seed in large quantities. The equipment to get the substances from the plant is ten times higher. For example as much as it makes a kilogram of seed oil, it can make a gram of CBD, THC. In the future, however, we will look at both areas”, says Mr. Xydis continues: “We have also stored half a ton of flower that we cut by hand. Next step is to set up a chemical laboratory to move on to the treatment of CBD. From seed we have two tons, although we waited longer. The specifications speak of 100 kilos per acre, but we took out 70-80, the crop did not go well for us, the weather conditions did not favor us.

And as for the profit margin, Mr. Xydis stressed: “The range of final products is huge. So a big profit margin, depending on which part you deal with. It is grown everywhere, since it grows in Finland (pp: there is an EU-approved Finnish variety of cannabis), while the period is March-September. If the farmer gives his crop directly, the profit is small. The issue is processing, as in most agricultural productions.”

“Our goal is not to become cultivators, to have 500 or 1000 acres,” says Mr. Xydis “the goal is for the farmers of the area to learn it, to grow and to know that there is a cannabis processing plant that will take their harvest. We have to learn the secrets, to make a cultivation guide, so that it becomes a “contract farming”. Of course the farmer should follow what we will have shown him in terms of quality and standards.”

If someone… easy money is being squeezed into growing cannabis, which is not the case. G. Xydis is perpendicular:

“Absolutely not! To make a profit from industrial hemp you have to grow and process hemp from dozens of acres. And that’s not easy, believe me.” That’s why their business plan is about expanding to the much more expensive processing of the flower. “Our design is five years old, where during this time we want to have machines for processing the whole plant in order to utilize CBD. Maybe it’s done sooner. It’s something that depends purely on funding.”

Hemp is a plant with unlimited potential at an industrial level, with ever wider use in medicine, while its seeds have great nutritional value (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). In Greece it was a basic cultivation and exportable product until 1957. It took 60 years for its cultivation to be allowed again, during which time the plant was “demonized”. Yiannis Xydis gives his own explanation on this issue as he believes that everything was a matter of financial gain and brings as an example the manufacture of plastics. «… plastic is a derivative of oil; But you can also make plastic from hemp. So if cannabis hadn’t been demonized it would have hurt huge interests.”

However, of the contacts he has and which in the last two years have been intense, Mr. Xydis believes that in Greece the climate is changing in the treatment of the “demonized” plant, as he says people in Greece are starting to be informed and slowly changing perception, as has been the case in many other countries.


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