In the fertile fields surrounding Medicine Hat, the humble hemp plant is a burgeoning multi-million dollar opportunity that has attracted the attention of Antonio A. Arias, CEO of Vancouver-based ALA Midas Capital Inc.
Arias, an entrepreneur and investor with experience as a corporate finance advisor and finance director, is interested in co-financing and co-developing health and wellness related business and technologies. Hemp’s nutritious oil that contains both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) falls into his portfolio. His goal is to raise $20 million for an Ag Health Fund to invest in hemp agribusiness and make Medicine Hat Canada’s hemp hub.
“Now is the right time to invest in hemp,” said Arias. “The industry is rapidly evolving as consumers and manufacturers realize the benefits of hemp.”
Hemp took a 60-year hiatus until 1998 due to the reputation of its distant cousin, marijuana. Hemp has a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, 0.3%, which makes it virtually impossible to get a high from smoking or ingesting it. Food, textiles, industrial fibre, soap, beer and construction materials are just a few products that can be manufactured from hemp.
One particularly inviting development has seen the Korean market go from non-existent to over $29 million in the course of a few short years, creating a demand for Canadian hemp. Additionally, Chinese consumers are gravitating to food products with health benefits.
Canada is one of the world’s leading exporters in hemp for food manufacturing. The majority of Canada’s hemp, 80%, is exported with most of it en-route to the United States, where it is illegal to grow in all but a couple of states.
Alberta’s abundant hemp supply has opened opportunities for more development in the industry. In 2015, 24,963 acres of hemp was seeded in Alberta, the bulk of which growing between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
Proximity to hemp growers and existence of an established angel investor network led Arias to choose Medicine Hat as his location to draw investment into the hemp industry.
Medicine Hat’s transportation and business development resources have also been perks for Arias, who said developing the fund in Alberta has been a smooth process.
“It’s amazing working with Albertans,” said Arias. “They are hardworking and driven.”