COLORADO CITY, Colo. — Paragon Processing is being deemed the world’s largest hemp facility and it’s right here in southern Colorado.
The location is at a former Kroger warehouse and they’ll be hiring hundreds of workers for harvest. The facility has a square footage of five football fields.
“Come November what we anticipate having is several million pounds of biomass,” Lead Engineer & Partner of Paragon Processing William Chavis said.
The biomass is harvested hemp and even now Chavis and the few dozen people at Paragon Processing are making some noise.
“These tests that you see in front of us are confirming that we are doing our jobs right as part of our R&D process,” Chavis explained about the final product they’re testing.
First, the product is off loaded and immediately a sample is taken to be tested at an independent lab.
“Because if it’s not in a climate controlled environment, it can grow molds, degrade the cannaboids and give you less then you started with,” Chavis added.
Then it’s off to the extraction room.
“This is where we would take any of the Biomass and turn into a crude material,” Chavis explained.
The crude material comes out with decent amounts of ethanol in it so the next step is refining it to a white powder of nearly pure CBD or this brown goey liquid with other cannabinoids.
“Some people want a broad spectrum that includes all the cannabinoids except for the THC and other people prefer a pure CBD product,” Chavis said.
Chavis believes they need to offer choices because they are expecting a lot of customers.
“We have contracts in place for 5 million pounds a month,” Chavis said. “We’ll have the capability of storing up to 50 million pounds of palletized biomass.”
Which potentially means storing between one and two billion dollars worth of hemp.
“With the projections that are coming through this year alone we’re looking at 15 times the biomass that we had last year as a whole,” Chavis said.
The reason for the increase is not the new facility, but new legislation. When congress passed the farm bill last year, hemp became legalized – meaning it can be transported across state lines.
“That bill gave us the green light to invest in a facility this large,” Chavis explained. “If we’re just focused on a Colorado market, a facility this size wouldn’t be necessary.”
The bill and the facility allows for more than just domestic customers as well.
“We’ve talked with the Columbians, we’ve talked with the Chinese, we’ve talked with the Israelis,” said Chavis. “We hope to build relationships with all three.”
Right now, they’re at 30-50 employees, but by harvest time they’ll need 200 more.
“We’re looking to have 500 people by the end of next year,”Chavis said. “It takes a considerable amount of man power to operate a facility this size.”
The influx of jobs could help southern Colorado, but it’s the communities it’s coming from Chavis sees as more drastic.
“I’ve seen a lot of people in big tobaccos where companies like Phillip Morris that are pulling contract farming from companies on the east coast so they’re left with giant fields that are sitting empty so it’s a key cut fit for them to be able to put hemp in place of what they were growing on tobacco and technically might make them more money this year,” Chavis added.
Paragon is currently hiring. If you are interested in applying click here.