Hemp4Water Founder Steve Edmonds spoke about the benefits of growing hemp over other crops in Winter Haven back in 2017.

AVON PARK — Hemp4Water Founder W. Steven Edmonds Jr. said nobody else in the country is studying how hemp could be used to remove metric tons of nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that can cause problems at high levels in rivers and lakes.

On Feb. 7, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services staff issued an Industrial Hemp Planting Permit to South Florida Community College to quantify how much nitrogen and phosphorus can be metabolized in a single hemp growth cycle and analyze the results.

Plants like cattails also remove nutrients from water while alive. Problem is, when they die, those nutrients get dissolved into the water again. Hemp is harvested live, but will sometimes unintentionally die on the bio mat. When that happens,  it can be turned into other bio mats or sold for other purposes.

Edmonds said that hemp is used to remove those nutrients from the ground at multiple locations in Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. He said he is not aware of anybody using hemp to clean water.

Hemp will be grown on bio mats anchored in two lakes on the college campus, one close to the main administration building and another on a more secluded campus lake. Edmonds said the first meeting at the college is Feb. 28.

“We should be popping seeds the following week,” Edmonds said.

Hemp4Water was established in 2013, generally speaking, to educate the public that hemp uses a lot less water from the Upper Floridan Aquifer than citrus or any other fruit.

Edmonds credited Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Director Nikki Fried for spearheading an effort to pass hemp-friendly legislation in Florida over the past few years. President Donald J. Trump signed a bill into law making federal trade of industrial hemp legal. Edmonds has long said that Florida was late arriving to that party but is hopeful for the future.

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