NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The hemp industry is seeing huge growth in Tennessee.

On Monday, News 2 got the official number of licensed hemp growers for 2019 so far – 2,780.

Because of the interest, the TDA said it’s taken longer than normal to process the applications.

You may recall, hemp has less than 0.3-percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.

After months in the making, partners Alex Huffstutter and Andrew Bubis can officially call themselves hemp farmers.

“Just exciting, this whole industry is about to take off and we’re on the front end of it,” said Huffstutter.

“Nice to see some of the fruits of our labor,” said Bubis.

The first-time farmers are now licensed under the Tennessee Hemp Pilot Program and can legally grow hemp on 20 acres of their River Bend Farm in Ashland City.

“Probably start smaller,” said Huffstutter.

“We’ll get our plants moved in, so we can get ready for outdoor season,” said Bubis.

Approved licensees got the notification first through email, in which the TDA called 2019 an epic year for the pilot program.

According to the TDA’s numbers, the almost 2,800 licensed growers for 2019 is more than 12 times than the number from last year, 226.

The growth expected, but to that degree, surprising even to industry leaders like Joe Kirkpatrick.

“I knew it was going to be a lot, I had no idea we were going to have more than 12 times the number of licensed growers,” said Kirkpatrick, President of the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association. “I think it signifies that Tennessee has created a regulatory environment that’s second to none globally.”

But as that framework evolves, so does the industry.

“It’s going to be a continual learning curve for at least a couple of years,” said Huffstutter.

“We’ve been good for asking for help, asking whenever we have questions, reaching out to people who know,” said Bubis.

Hard work that the farming novices hope will pay off, starting at the end of this growing season.

“Come end of May, we’ll have a few thousand plants planted here hopefully,” said Huffstutter.

News 2 is tracking Tennessee’s Hemp surge. Click here for more coverage.