Vermont-made app aims to standardize hemp industry

ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) New technology aims to bring transparency to the hemp industry.

As of last fall, there were 427 registered hemp growers in Vermont, totaling 2,711 acres of production-- that's according to the Agency of Agriculture's Hemp Program.

And with more acceptance of the crop on the federal level, more and more farmers are getting into the market here and nationwide. But navigating regulations can be tricky. Our Cat Viglienzoni found a Vermont company that says they've got an app for that.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: This whole side of the greenhouse looks like it's hemp.
Justin Lang: Yep, this whole side of the greenhouse is our hemp starts, just a few different varieties.
Cat Viglienzoni: Years ago what would that have been on that side?
Justin Lang: Whole bunch of perennials, annuals and hanging flower baskets.

The Lang Farm in Essex has been around for 100 years but business is evolving toward a new cash crop: hemp.

Cat Viglienzoni: Is this the future?
Justin Lang: For right now, we see this as the foreseeable future of the farm.

Justin Lang is the fifth generation on the farm. And he is excited about using their horticultural experience to grow plants that will eventually turn into CBD. He and his father, Jonathan, are also turning to new tech to make sure they follow all the regulations. It's a Vermont-based app called Trace.

"We're tracing information. We're tracing product," said Joshua Decatur, the CEO and co-founder of Trace.

Decatur has a background in cultivation and says clarity about what farmers need to do has always been an issue in the cannabis industry. Trace aims to change that by standardizing the process.

"It's like somewhere between an Amazon and an Uber for hemp where you can just walk product through to the point of sale," Decatur explained.

He says Trace is designed to be user-friendly. Download the app. Enter in the data about your crop. Then when you harvest, enter in that data, choose which of their verified production facilities you're sending it to and then wait for the producer to fill out their end. And buyers can bid through the app based on the quality of the product.

"Because that allows responsible high-end organic Vermont farmers to differentiate themselves in a pretty crowded and confusing market," Decatur said.

Trace keeps hackers who might corrupt data out using blockchain technology.

"It's kind of like a database that's written in pen instead of pencil, so we know with 100 percent certainty who's saying what about product," Decatur said.

Which gives farms like the Langs' peace of mind. They aren't having trouble finding buyers for their hemp. But they turned to the app because they want to make sure people know what they're selling is high quality.

"Seed-to-sale is where you want to be," Jonathan Lang said. "You know what's going in. You know what's coming out. Like any other business."

About 60 companies nationwide have signed up for Trace so far, that includes hemp and marijuana growers. They've been doing a soft rollout of the app over the past weeks. Their official launch will be happening soon.