Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / James Dawson looks at large bags of hemp at Landrace Bioscience. The company that manufactures hemp extracts is the 2020 Spirit of Innovation award winner.

A Chattanooga company pioneering new processes for extracting cannabinoids from hemp won the 2020 Spirit of Innovation award on Wednesday night.

"What Landrace has done is really remarkable," said James Dawson, vice president of sales and marketing for winner Landrace Bioscience. "Our technology we've built as a delivery mechanism, it's not just for CBD."

Since 2001, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce has recognized local companies launching innovative products, practices or processes with its annual Spirit of Innovation award. The award's announcement during the city's annual Startup Week moved online this year, highlighting three groundbreaking businesses that have found creative ways to thrive during a challenging time.

Landrace, which has a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility off Amnicola Highway, was founded in June 2018. The company emerged shortly before Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which allowed for the growing, processing and sale of industrial hemp.

Founded by Ryan Piersant and John Hetzler, Landrace holds a patent for a cannabinoid and plant extract delivery system that makes the product permeable and more easily absorbed by the body.

The Spirit of Innovation finalists:

Landrace Bioscience: Landrace has a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility off Amnicola Highway and holds a patent for a cannabinoid and plant extract delivery system.

Trekka Designs: Trekka makes outdoor gear, including the crowd-funded Travelers Pants designed by the company’s co-founders.

Text Request: Text Request has capitalized on the direct, personalized and responsive appeal of text messages and works with over 2,000 business clients.



"The issue is solubility and absorption," Dawson said during the online event. "What we've designed is a delivery system for more people to experience those effects."

Other Spirit of Innovation finalists were Trekka Designs and Text Request. Trekka's work to develop new outdoor gear is a "weird blend of design, engineering and mad scientist," said co-founder Chris Loizeaux.

"We were not satisfied with what the industry had to offer," said Loizeaux, who founded the company with fellow outdoor enthusiast Nick Rader.

The idea for Text Request was born when founders Brian and Jamey Elrod were trying to get the attention of a server while their toddler was having a meltdown.

"When you looked around, everyone was communicating via text with the exception of businesses," Brian Elrod said.

The Elrods teamed up with software developer Rob Reagan to launch Text Request in November 2014, and over the past six years the company's text messaging software has helped connect more than 7 million people through business texts.

Startup Week highlights

To register for the event and view the full schedule, visit

Highlights from the agenda:

Thursday, Oct. 22

Latinx Businesses Navigating 2020 — 10 a.m.

Startup Awards — 4 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 23

Amplify Pitch Competition — 10 a.m.

Gig City Innovation Challenge — 1:30 p.m.



The online Spirit of Innovation event also featured a Q-and-A session with Arlan Hamilton, an investor and the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital.

In May 2020, Hamilton released her first book, "It's About Damn Time," about her mission-driven journey into entrepreneurship and venture capital with a focus on getting funding to women, people of color and LGBTQ founders.

Backstage Capital invests in people outside of the coastal hubs of venture capital who are solving problems they have experienced in their own lives, said Hamilton, who was born in Mississippi and grew up in Texas.

"In the South, you're sort of connected more to the products and the services you're going to build out," she said. "I love investing in that person who knows their products and their service so well because they lived it."

Contact Mary Fortune at Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.