Miner tackles hemp business

Firm provides venture capital | Company targets hemp and medical marijuana

Harry Barr has spent nearly 40 years raising funds and cutting deals in the global mining industry.

However, in the back of his mind, Barr was always pondering the potential of a different opportunity: industrial hemp.

Barr, who was raised on an farm in the Ottawa Valley near Renfrew, Ont., finally decided to pursue his dormant passion about five months ago when he restructured one of his existing mining companies to form Next Gen. The new enterprise provides venture capital and financing expertise for the industrial hemp, medical marijuana and alternative medicine industries.

“What we can do is what we do in mining,” the venture capitalist said.

“We have a brand new industry that needs a lot of capital.”

As part of that effort, Barr and his colleagues created a division of Next Gen called Green Rush Financial Conferences in March.

The new entity will facilitate investment and business-to-business opportunities in the medical marijuana, industrial hemp and alternative medicine sectors.

Green Rush held its initial conference May 7 in Vancouver and will hold a second event June 26 in Toronto.

“We put financiers with industrial hemp people who want to build their businesses,” he said.

“They’re in food sales, hempcrete … all of this stuff and they want to build to something bigger.”

Anndrea Hermann, who works in business development for Hemp Technologies Global, which grows, processes and sells hemp products directly to consumers, said the Vancouver event was a success.

“(It) allowed us, the Hemp Industries Association, to present our mission and to showcase our member products.”

Barr has always been intrigued by hemp because he has a family connection to the crop.

His grandfather, also named Harry Barr, grew hemp on the family farm in the 1930s and 1940s.

“(He) grew industrial hemp for the War Act. They used what (my grandfather) grew off the farm to make rope for the soldiers and the sailors.”

When Barr was a young man, his father often shared the family’s history of growing hemp. His father always made a distinction between hemp and marijuana.

“He used to point to a field and say … ‘I hope you’re not smoking what your grandfather used to grow,’ ” Barr said.

“It (hemp) wasn’t the stuff that makes you kids crazy, it was something different.”

After earning an agribusiness degree at the University of Guelph, Barr’s future was altered when his uncle invested in a gold mine in Colombia.

“So my path went from agriculture … into mining most of my career.”

After completing more than 40 deals with major mining companies and hundreds more with mid-size and junior firms, Barr was ready for a new opportunity, which led him to the hemp and medical marijuana sector.

“About a year or so ago, we decided to take one of the four companies I had … into a different business.”

Hemp growers and processors typically emphasize that the crop is not the same as marijuana, but Barr decided to pursue venture capital for both industries because he sees a huge potential for medicinal marijuana.

“I believe more and more in what medical marijuana can do, for the people who need it,” he said.

“Talking to some of the doctors … all of the things I’m learning, I think there’s a lot more to it.”

Barr said hemp and medical marijuana represent a massive opportunity.

“I’m learning as we go, but I do know we have a multibillion-dollar new industry in this country.”

Following the Toronto event in late June, Green Rush Financial Conferences plans to hold similar gatherings in the United States and Europe.