Florence, Ky. — BrightMa Farms Inc. CEO and founder Harold Singletary has reached another milestone in his journey to produce sustainable automotive parts from a composite material containing hemp grown by his Charleston, S.C.-based company.
Founded in 2018, the agricultural technology business, which has farming roots going back to the end of the Civil War, successfully produced two parts for Volvo Trucks at one of its "cluster partners," Core Technology Molding Corp., in Greensboro, N.C.
The truck parts are made from a formulation of a nylon and natural hemp fibers developed with KraussMaffei Corp., another cluster partner in Florence, Ky.
The hemp comes from two BrightMa growing campuses in Orangeburg and Cordesville, S.C., each about an hour from the corporate offices in Charleston.
The Cordesville land has been in Singletary's family since 1865, when his great-great-grandmother Katie Heyward, who became known as BrightMa, was freed and settled on a 10-acre tract not far from the plantation where she had been enslaved.
The Cordesville farm has produced cotton, rice, corn, tomatoes, okra and sweet potatoes over the years, but with hemp growing legalized in 2018, the minority-owned and veteran-managed company moved into an ag-tech direction with a focus on triple-bottom line benefits for people, the planet and profits.
"The impact hemp can bring to the plastics ecosystem is amazing," Singletary said. "We just need an entry point and an opportunity. I love our timing with the White House and mandates. It makes for an easier conservation when everyone has to check ESG [environmental responsibility, social impact and corporate governance]."
In the field, hemp, which has no value as a recreational drug, grows in a variety of climates and soils. Production requires less water than other crops. The plants also grow without harmful herbicides and pesticides while replenishing soil quality and capturing carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
In factories, Singletary sees opportunities for hemp fibers as an alternative to synthetic textiles, clothes and upholstery; hemp seeds to add anti-oxidants and vitamins to food and personal care products; "hempcrete," a construction material made from hemp fibers, lime and water; and hemp plastic as an alternative to petroleum-based plastic — for lighter, greener Volvo truck parts and more.
"My goal is to push past conversations. That's why I'm in the field doing real R&D that brings products that shows we can improve our market ecosystem," Singletary said. "This isn't just me chasing a purchase order. From the seeds of farmers all the way to the producers of goods, we all have a hand in the solution."
Ashley Campbell, purchasing and supplier diversity manager for Volvo Group, is rooting for the BrightMa CEO.
"In sustainability and circularity you have to start small with a huge heart and a big passion for change. Harold Singletary at BrightMa Farms Inc. embodies this spirit in person," Campbell said in a recent Linked In post.
The comment was shared along with a group photo, including Singletary and Core Technology Molding CEO and owner Geoff Foster.
"Super excited about this project and looking forward to the next steps," Campbell added.