Hemp farm raising funds in $30 million equity round
Lazy Gator’s Hemp Farm has raised $165,000 in an equity round capped at $30 million, a result of transitioning its original investors to shareholders in the company.
“We’re not looking to raise $30 million, we’re just approved up to that limit,” owner Gator Williams said.
In fact, most of the money reported in the regulatory filing is money the company has had for more than a year, said co-owner Jessica Seymour.
“We were a brand new company a year and a half ago, and we didn’t want to go the route of borrowing money like a traditional farm might do from agricultural financial institutions,” she said. “We found various angel investors which were willing to take the risk to allow us to get some start up funds.
“Most of them invested $10,000, and as time goes on that number has varied up and down.”
Of the investors, Seymour notes that they come from six different states and include engineers, financial advisors and a physician.
“We have a variety of different skill sets to pull from, from those who have graciously taken the risk to invest,” Seymour said.
While the money from investors helps support the farm’s daily operations and specific assets, the team has larger goals for the company, including a plan to go public in three years.
“We want to provide farmers — and family farmers mostly — an opportunity to save their farms and be profitable year to year,” Williams said. “It’s an opportunity to have a choice outside of corporate America.”
This opportunity comes, of course, in the hemp growing industry, which Williams says is a new cash crop for farmers.
According to Hemp Business Journal, the hemp market in 2017 amounted to $820 million with growth expected to triple in 2018.
“Supply vs. demand is so big right now that it would take five years of industry running smoothly before we even approach the demand,” Williams said.
The demand Williams talks about is largely for products derived from the hemp flower and an extract called CBD, which is claimed to have medicinal properties without the psychoactive components found in marijuana.
However, the demand for hemp farming goes beyond such products.
“It’s a full plant solution,” Seymour said. “Hemp fiber has industrial uses like textiles and building materials. The sky’s the limit.”
As the company moves forward in the hemp industry, the difference between hemp and marijuana does pose a challenge in dealing with local law enforcement, as the plants look identical.
“Local legislation needs to adapt to this crop to make it easier for law enforcement to determine what’s what,” Williams said. “You can’t tell the difference visibly and there’s not an easy way to properly test.”