Buyer found for troubled hemp firm

A RECESSION-HIT hemp processing operation with a �4million factory at Halesworth has been saved after a buyer was found.The business and assets of Hemcore Ltd have been sold to Oxfordshire-based low carbon products manufacturer Lime Technology, which says it will continue operations in Halesworth under the new name of Hemp Technology Ltd.

A RECESSION-HIT hemp processing operation with a �4million factory at Halesworth has been saved after a buyer was found.

The business and assets of Hemcore Ltd have been sold to Oxfordshire-based low carbon products manufacturer Lime Technology, which says it will continue operations in Halesworth under the new name of Hemp Technology Ltd.

Hemcore went into administration in April after it was hit by the downturn in the construction and the motor vehicle industries.

The company makes building materials and insulation products used in the construction industry and in the manufacture of motor vehicles.

Administrator Ian Carr, a partner at Grant Thornton, said they were “delighted” to have found a buyer for the business, protecting existing jobs.

“There is a natural fit between Lime Technology and Hemcore and so the acquisition makes good strategic sense,” he said.

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“Hemcore has a great deal of potential. Opportunities exist for the current product range in new markets and additional products and technologies can be developed and brought to the market. Members of the team at Lime Technology have worked with Hemcore in the past and so understand its potential.”

The factory, which opened at Halesworth Business Centre last year after the company relocated from Hertfordshire, took two years to plan and develop, and at the time, Hemcore said the site would help reduce its carbon footprint by minimising the time it took to transport hemp from farms.

Lime Technology, which makes lime based low carbon building products said it had been working with Hemcore over the past five years, as part of the supply chain for its Tradical Hemcrete product, which is used to create carbon negative, highly thermally efficient walls. It is made from a mix of hemp shiv (the woody core or pith of the hemp plant), supplied by Hemcore, and a lime based binder.

The new owners said the business would continue to supply a range of products including horse bedding and fibre to the automotive industry. Hemp fibre is used as a lightweight renewable alternative in the body panels of many cars as well as being the raw material for hemp insulation.

As part of the acquisition, Lime Technology will be retaining the Hemcore brand name as well as its offices and factory in Halesworth. It said it planned to retain the current workforce and that the plant would continue to operate.

Mike Duckett becomes managing director and John Hobson remains the main contact for customers.

To minimise operational disruption, Hemp Technology has secured supplies of Hemcore horse bedding to satisfy the growing demand for the product through the next season. The company will also be honouring any contracts that were in place between Hemcore and its network of farmers and growers.

Lime Technology said it was planning to expand Hemcore's base of farmers for the growing season of 2010, a reflection of increasing demand for hemp from certain sectors, such as the construction industry. It is anticipated that the hemp acreage required for the 2010 growing season will be between 6,000 and 8,000 acres.

“The acquisition by Lime Technology not only secures the future of hemp processing in the UK it also ensures that a much needed alternative break crop is available to farmers” said Mr Duckett.

The company said further capital investment would be made in the Hemp Technology facility to improve quality and operating efficiencies to establish the company as a leading hemp processor.

When operating is at full capacity the plant will have the capability to process 50,000 tonnes of hemp straw per annum and provide enough shiv to build 6,000 houses.