ZeaKal raises $10 million for hemp, cannabis products


ZeaKal, a San Diego plant science company, says it has received $10 million to increase yields from growing cannabis and hemp.

ZeaKal’s PhotoSeed technology increases the efficiency of photosynthesis, said Han Chen, the company’s CEO. This in turn boosts production of oils and other nutrients.

The money came from Canopy Rivers, a Canadian venture capital fund that invests in cannabis-related products, and was announced on June 19. With the fund’s help, research into cannabis and CBD oil will proceed in Canada, Chen said.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive substance used for relieving pain and anxiety. CBD oil and cannabis are legal for adults in Canada, while in the U.S. it’s still illegal under federal law.

Hemp research will also take place in the United States, Chen said. Hemp, a strain of the cannabis plant, can be legally used for industrial and food products. It contains very small amounts of THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana.

Hemp was legalized last December under the 2918 farm bill signed by President Donald Trump.

ZeaKal was cofounded by Chen and San Diego agricultural biotechnology veteran Jerry Caulder. It emerged from technology discovered in New Zealand, which has a heavily pastoral economy. It was funded by a venture capital group including by Finistere Ventures, Two Oceans and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.