New hemp-focused ESG fund plans to raise $500 million for industry by 2030

An environmental, social and governance fund focused on developing the hemp supply chain and infrastructure for food and fiber launched Saturday, with a plan to inject $500 million into the industry by 2030.

The strategy for the rePlant Hemp Impact Fund, established by Geoff Whaling, chair of the National Hemp Association and Michael Woods, CEO and COO of Big Sun Holdings Group Corp., which owns smart construction company Black Buffalo 3D and internet-of-things and IT company Flash Labs Corp., is to develop the hemp supply chain and value chain provide a new cash crop for American farmers and a sustainable manufacturing input for a range of industries.

“We will unlock the vast potential of America’s newest commodity; a regenerative, carbon-sequestering natural resource,” Whaling said in a statement.

The first round of funding will begin in January with a $25 million subscription, followed by increasingly larger rounds.

According to the group, each successive round will be developed using a data-driven approach to support new technologies and onboard adjacent industries to hemp.

The source of the initial funding was not disclosed.

Within 18 months, the group aims to support entrepreneurs while supplying hemp-based competitive options for companies seeking to replace input materials such as paper, plastic and cement.

Ultimately, the fund plans to pursue climate-smart practices and products centered around hemp-based foods, construction materials, textiles, automobile parts and bioplastics.

The rePlant Hemp fund follows Whaling’s venture developing special-purpose acquisition company Collective Growth Corp., which originally set out to raise money to invest in hemp and ultimately combined with Innoviz Technologies, an Israel-based company that produces LiDAR sensors and perception software for autonomous-driving vehicles, in a $1.4 billion transaction in April 2021.

Whaling said hemp is “at an inflection point” for investors looking for real ESG options or hedging “against the inevitable decline of fossil fuels …

“There is no other natural resource with a foothold in such a wide range of major global industries,” Whaling said. “The combined total addressable market is staggering.”