CHEYNEY — Plans call for Cheyney University’s bucolic campus to host a 10-acre hemp farm and processing plant in an existing university building and commonwealth-owned fields.
Advanced Alchemy Labs, a West Chester-based company that produces hemp extract-based health products, is teaming with the 550-student university.
Enrollment recently rebounded and the university balanced its budget for the first time since 2011. In November it again earned accreditation.
The university has attracted, and is seeking more businesses for on-campus partnerships to enhance the student experience.
“This is a very significant transaction for Cheyney as we continue to form partnerships with forward-looking companies to operate on our campus,” said Cheyney University President Aaron A. Walton. “In this deal, we achieve the two mandatory components of all of our corporate collaborations.
“First, there will be paid internships for our students, along with training and curriculum surrounding hemp cultivation and processing. Also, Cheyney will benefit financially from the company’s presence on our campus. This partnership is yet another example of the two filters we use to evaluate opportunities: Number One, it must be in the best interest of our students and Number Two, it must preserve/advance our institution.”
Chester County has a rich agricultural history and according to a release, represents a future viable crop for farms and other entities in the county. Hemp can be used to produce plastic, paper, clothing and cars and will be grown by Advanced Alchemy Labs at nine other Pennsylvania locations.
In addition to the 10-acre hemp fields, 10,000 square feet of the school’s Jones Hilton maintenance building will be used for processing.
“While farming hemp has become increasingly popular, there is a shortage in processing capacity,” reads the release. “There are very few certified and appropriate facilities in the region where the crop can be dried, extracted and processed.
“Advanced Alchemy Labs hopes to fill that void.”
The founders of the company, including former Philadelphia Flyer Riley Cote, has been successful in the hemp-based health products business under the brand BodyChek Wellness. That hemp is grown in Colorado. Advanced Alchemy Labs hopes to distribute globally from the new facility in Thornbury Township after securing approval from the municipality, which is projected within the next five months.
“The opportunity at Cheyney is ideal for us with the proximity to our offices in West Chester,” said Managing Partner Britt Mazzagatti. “Now, not only will we be able to do the farming here, we’ll also have extraction, processing, formulation and research and development at the facility.
“This is great for local hemp farmers because they now know they can grow with the knowledge of who’s going to buy the crop from them. They also know that as long as they’re growing at the standards in our agreements, we’ll buy the product and take care of the rest.”
Cote was a tough hockey star and threw a lot of body checks. Dealing with aches and pains was one of the main reasons he became so interested in hemp.
“I was a combination hockey player and fighter and fought about 30-35 times a year,” Cote said. “It made a whole lot of sense for me to jump into this area. There are potentially thousands of uses for CBD for public health and harm reduction.”
The release reads: “CBD is a safe, non-addictive substance that comes from the cannabis plant with robust therapeutic value. The beauty of hemp products is they provide these positive qualities without the THC element from cannabis that makes users high.”
“Demand for hemp-based products has been building for several years because the product works,” Cote said. “CBDs (or cannabidiols) have gotten a lot of attention for what they can do for mankind.
“We’ve made a mark with our brand because of the quality of our product. We’ve been farming in Pennsylvania for the last two seasons and the time has arrived for us to build an extraction and processing facility here. Cheyney University’s campus is the ideal site.”
Cheyney students will be involved.
“We’re counting on interns working with us,” Mazzagatti said. “It allows us to train and recruit future employees. We’re going to have farming and cultivation, extraction, processing and marketing. Our interns and the university will work in all of those areas.”
Partner at Mosaic Development Partners, Leslie Smallwood-Lewis, is helping Cheyney plan and lease campus space. “The building is perfectly positioned and laid out in an optimal way because it has high ceilings, a roll-up garage door for transporting in and out – and is very conducive to the kind of operation they will run. They are retrofitting what is now a storage and facilities building.”