By Gregory Daurer | May 19, 2020
Fort Collins, Colorado
Mosher says of New West Genetics (NWG), "We create hemp varieties that are adapted to the U.S. -- and, also, for specific market traits."
One of her company's commercial hemp varieties is rich in CBD, as well as a full spectrum of other cannabinoids. Flowers from those plants are used to make extracts -- including NWG's very own commercially available version -- which can be incorporated into CBD wellness products.
Additionally, Mosher says of the company's seeds, "Two of them are grain varieties: one adapted for the Midwest and Western U.S.; and then one adapted for the Southeastern U.S." Plants resulting from those seeds will ultimately produce grain (i.e., hemp seeds) for commercial markets: to be used within human or animal food; or the oil pressed from them will go into a variety of different products. NWG's grain-crop varieties produce seeds with not only desirable healthy proteins and essential fatty acids, they're being bred for qualities like enhanced shelf stability, as well.
This year, Mosher estimates that NWG's seeds will be planted by "large-scale, row crop growers" in about 50 different locations -- "from Washington down to Florida, New York to Arizona," as well as Canada. "That is twice what we were doing a year ago," she says.
The company formed in 2014, after the Farm Bill of 2013 legalized hemp research at the federal level, offering the business legal protection. Mosher, who possesses a background in education, began the company with her husband, John McKay -- a professor at Colorado State University, and an expert on the genetics of drought-resistant crops. Another founding partner is Dr. Rich Fletcher, who led Cargill's canola breeding program for nearly 20 years before NWG's launch.
While the company is presently focusing on low-THC hemp, its partners recognize that the lessons they learn about the genomics of hemp can ultimately apply to commercial cannabis, as well, should it become federally legal, as well.
Mosher is quick to point out that the company does not genetically modify any of its seeds or crops. Rather, it uses genomics to identify the specific desirable traits it's looking for in a hemp plant, such as genetic markers for drought resistance or high protein content. The company then stabilizes those genes through targeted breeding between plants manifesting those particular qualities. "You throw away what doesn't work, and then you select what does work," Mosher says. "We don't put it to market until it has shown stability, season after season."
Working out of its Fort Collins location and on land it leases from farmers in Colorado, New West Genetics has achieved a series of impressive landmarks in the world of commercial hemp genetics.
One of its CBD seeds, Abound, is USDA-certified organic. Mosher says that designation becomes a selling point for makers of CBD products who want to indicate that their CBD has derived from not only organically grown hemp, but also from having used organic seeds used to grow it as well -- in other words, "organic through the whole [cultivation] chain."
Another seed, NWG-Elite, has been certified by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). AOSCA-certified inspectors visit a field throughout the growing season in order to verify an applicant's claims about a crop. "It has to perform the way you say it performs," says Mosher.
Not only that, the NWG-Elite seed is the first hemp variety to ever receive Plant Variety Protection (PVP), a patent issued by the USDA. Mosher notes, "This summer we have four more varieties that will be up for AOSCA certification."
And there's another notable achievement: "We have the highest-producing grain variety that's been in the [University of Kentucky Industrial Hemp Variety Trials] the last two years in a row," says Mosher.
According to Mosher, NWG has been guided by a "moral compass" that will serve it over the long term. "We're not the largest seed seller out there -- yet," says Mosher. She says, unlike some of her company's now-defunct competition, NWG doesn't commercially release its seeds until they've been verifiably stabilized over successive growing seasons.
Because the company takes that extra step, Mosher says, "I truly believe that's going to pay off in the end."
Challenges: In "an industry that's nascent," Mosher says it's finding "ethical and large-scale, experienced partners," including "commercial-scale grain cleaners, large row crop growers, and scaled extraction facilities."
She also cites the "FDA's regulatory stranglehold," as slowing the growth of the hemp industry.
Opportunities: "We got here right away," says Mosher. "Colorado was one of the first states to sanction [hemp] breeding programs. That is huge, because breeding takes so long. It's a huge jump start to have been able to begin in 2014."
Needs: As the need for cannabis extraction increases for her company, Mosher hopes to see more large businesses that "understand the refining of cannabinoids."