Blue Sky shows off hemp processing facility

6 mins read

CBD plant brings new technology, jobs to Beaufort County

Agricultural hemp is growing into a major cash crop in South Carolina, and the newly-opened Blue Sky Processing facility is bringing some of the action to Beaufort County.

Blue Sky Processing held its grand opening Thursday, May 16, as about 200 residents and local and state dignitaries gathered to celebrate the Palmetto State’s newest hemp CBD (cannabidiol) processing plant. 

After a ribbon-cutting and champagne toast, guests toured the 15,000 square-foot facility near Gardens Corner in the Sheldon community. The operation will create 16 jobs and help establish South Carolina as a leader in the space.

Company officials and local and state politicians, including state senators Tom Davis and Margie Bright Matthews and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, spoke about Blue Sky’s groundbreaking work in a burgeoning industry and praised the work of John O’Toole and the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission in helping bring the business to the county — though it wasn’t a hard sell to get Blue Sky’s founders to keep their business close to home. 

CEO Josh Hartsel attended Hilton Head Island High School, and President Jennifer Pfuhl has been a Hilton Head resident since 2003.

“We all love the Lowcountry,” Pfuhl said in a release. “We explored opportunities to take our processing operation into spaces with more advanced hemp programs, but unanimously decided South Carolina was the place to be. We all love the weather, wildlife, and people here.”

While Blue Sky is not the first hemp processing facility in the state, it is unique thanks to its proprietary Delta-9 Technologies extraction equipment — the only automated hydrocarbon extraction system on the market.

“One of the things that makes hydrocarbons unique is the diversity and quality of products we can make compared to CO2 and ethanol extraction methods,” Hartsel explained to the first group to tour the facility. “They’re really limited to isolate and distillate, whereas we can make a lot of the high-value products that you would associate with the cannabis industry, that are now being sold in CBD markets around the country.”

Another advantage Blue Sky has is its short path distillation machine, which produces a purer form of oil. Many processors don’t have that option, so Blue Sky may find ample opportunity to take the handoff from other processors and further distill their crude product.

Blue Sky expects to have plenty of hemp to process thanks to South Carolina’s commitment to the growing industry. State Agriculture Secretary Hugh Weathers told the assembled crowd that new laws will increase the number of farmers allowed the cultivate industrial hemp from 40 in 2018 to 110 this year, with between 3,300 and 3,400 acres devoted to the crop statewide.

That’s great news for Blue Sky, which has the capabilities for hemp toll processing, as well as the ability to develop bulk wholesale CBD products and create white-labeled packaged products such as topical treatments, nutritional supplements, and even pet products.

Blue Sky also hopes to make good use of its waste. The plant produces up to 500 pounds of byproduct of the extraction process per day, and Hartsel said the company is experimenting with using the chaff to create pellets that could be used as a fuel source.

Blue Sky officially moved into the state-of-the-art plant, which was built by local company Fraser Construction, in late-April and has already begun processing hemp. Pfuhl said they had amassed a sizeable quantity of winterized crude CBD oil that they are continuing to stockpile before firing up the distillation process.

With its genesis as a testing company, Blue Sky is able to perform full-scale tests on its products on site to confirm the THC and CBD levels are within the allowable limits and ensure its processes are working properly.

“It takes it a little while to dial it in,” Pfuhl said. “You want to make sure you’re not leaving anything in the plant, because it’s so valuable, so we’ve been sometimes extracting the same batch more than once to verify that we got everything out of it.”

To learn more about Blue Sky Processing and sister company Delta-9 Technologies, please visit the company’s website at madebybluesky.com.

Above: S.C. State Senator Tom Davis celebrates after dumping bio mass into the extraction machine – Davis has been a strong advocate for the agricultural hemp and medical cannabis industries in South Carolina.

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