Solari Hemp Launches in Colorado

Jake Salazar is taking what he’s learned in the legal cannabis space and applying it to his new venture: Solari Hemp, a vertically integrated hemp and CBD platform in Colorado. Salazar has been in the cannabis space for 11 years, helping to craft legislation in Colorado and founding MMJ America in 2008.

The rest of the Solari team includes Colin Gallagher (former director of operations and business development at Smoker Friendly International) and Myorr Janha (former CMO of Rush Communications). Salazar has drawn lessons from Janha’s expertise—namely, that the power of engagement is as important as the power of well-informed cultivation technique.

“What I learned along the way is the product is amazing, but you’ve got to let people know about it,” Salazar says. “[Focusing on] that marketing angle is just as big of a deal to us as making sure all of our … harvesting techniques and all the equipment that we’ve specially built [can] harvest a large crop without destroying it.

There’s a whole array of things—we view everything as equally important, and we pay attention to everything.”

After selling his share of MMJ American in 2017, Salazar moved toward the opportunities in hemp that had first opened up through industrial pilot programs a few years prior. Seeing the success of growers working with the cannabis plant in a broader marketplace, Salazar decided to bring his expertise to this new challenge. Vertical integration in this marketplace, he felt, was key.

“What I learned through doing all of that was that I can trust the product a lot more when I know it’s coming from [my own business],” Salazar says now. “We had an opportunity that we saw to ultimately control our own destiny and not get priced out. We didn’t want to be pigeonholed on the business side.”

The most visible side of Solari’s business is the line of branded hemp-derived CBD products: tinctures, lotions, gummies and more. The company will also wholesale its hemp biomass on the newly legal interstate market and work with other companies on white-labeling hemp-based products.

“Our primary focus was to build a genuine seed-to-sale company,” he says. “That’s from the genetics and the intellectual property all the way through to our final products and distribution.” From his past work, Salazar is drawing on award-winning CBD genetics at a time when the nascent hemp industry is learning more about which chemovars will thrive in which climates (and for which end products).

 

solari hemp launch colorado jake salazar cbd

Courtesy of Solari Hemp

 

To get the job done, Solari is partnering with fourth-generation hemp farmers in Colorado. The emergent industry is a buyer’s market, in many ways, and Salazar says he had to sift through offers from land owners and hemp growers to find just the right type of partner—a balancing act that often involves questions of water rights and soil quality. (“Everybody’s got a piece of land that they want you to farm now, right?” he says.)

But Solari is founded on more than just business acumen acquired from years in the cannabis industry. The hemp space is different—economically, demographically and agriculturally.

When growing and selling cannabis flower, for instance, cultivation businesses operate on the fundamental promise of making that flower presentable. “When you’re growing hemp outside, it’s completely different,” Salazar says. “How do you get that quality crop without sacrificing too many things to the elements? How do you get this stuff out of the ground without destroying it? That was a big challenge.”

Coming from a controlled environment, Salazar says a major challenge was found in mitigating risk outdoors. In working with farmers who’d grown low-cannabinoid hemp cultivars for fiber, the Solari team applies those cultivation and harvest techniques to CBD-rich cultivars that can withstand the elements. Crop uniformity is a fundamental part of hemp cultivation.

And the Solari team developed its own harvest head for a reconfigured eight-row combine in order to guarantee that uniformity. Rather than using corn harvesting equipment, Salazar says hemp requires a different touch. (Hemp’s fiber stalks behave differently under harvesting pressure than corn’s hollow stalks.)

“Not only do you end up destroying that [corn] equipment,” he says, “but you end up destroying a big chunk of your crop too by doing it that way.”

And that’s not an option in this highly competitive industry. With the long-running hemp knowledge of partner-farmers and the cannabis industry background of Salazar and the rest of the executive team, Solari is pursuing the vertical integration strategy to avoid those issues and make its mark in the emergent hemp space.

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