Nova Scotia

Sydney's former coke ovens site to grow hemp

Highland Hemp will begin planting an experimental hemp crop this spring on seven hectares of remediated land.

'It's a growing market and it has limitless potential from our point of view,' says Parker Rudderham

The Sydney tar ponds, once considered one of Canada’s most toxic waste sites, is now a green space after decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on cleanup. (CBC)

Part of the former coke ovens site in Sydney is going to look a lot greener come spring.

That's when a local company, Highland Hemp, starts planting an experimental hemp crop on seven hectares of remediated land.

The firm's CEO, Parker Rudderham, told CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning the company has received a licence from Health Canada to produce hemp seed oil and other related products.

Parker Rudderham is CEO of Highland Hemp, a company that plans to grow hemp on a section of the former coke ovens site in Sydney. (Steve Sutherland/CBC)

"It's a growing market and it has limitless potential from our point of view," Rudderham said. 

Rudderham's plan is to sell hemp seed oil through his pharmaceutical company, Pharmacy Wholesale Services, to markets in Europe.  

"It's recognized as a premium product in Europe," he said.

He said hemp can also be turned into a type of plastic that is durable like regular plastic, but has the added benefit of being biodegradeable.

The land will be leased from Nova Scotia Lands and the crop will be planted, maintained and harvested by a subcontractor, Rudderham said. 

'Clean bill of health'

He's not worried about toxicity in the soil because an environmental review has given the site "a clean bill of health," he said.

"It'll be interesting to see if the plant pulls anything out of the ground. I'm assured it will not," he added.

When 500 truckloads of topsoil are spread over the already remediated property that should reinforce the safe growing conditions, he said, and the plants will be tested afterwards.

When asked about the THC levels of the plant that might tempt would-be thieves, Rudderham said they are so low — 10 parts per million — that it would be akin to "smoking a banana peel." THC is the principal psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

"It's not gonna do anything for you. Maybe make you sick," he said.

Once harvested, the crop will be processed in the fall, Rudderham said, adding the project is in its experimental stage.

"We will have a cold-press vat. You cold press it and you run the oil."

Hemp oil is high in essential fatty acids, and Omega 6 and Omega 3. There are claims it can be used to increase immunity, counteract aging skin and improve cardiovascular health. 

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