A new hemp farming deal saw shares in this tiny solar company surge 77%

SPI Energy, a little-known Chinese solar company, was the biggest gainer in the Nasdaq Composite Index Wednesday after announcing it was breaking into a new market: US hemp farming.

The Hong Kong-based company reached a deal with the Native American Agricultural Company to cultivate hemp on the Navajo Nation, according to a statement. The shares surged as much 77%, to $4, the most during intraday trading since January 23.

SPI – which develops solar projects in Asia, North America and Europe – has licenses from the Navajo Nation to test, cultivate, process and sell hemp. The endeavor will include extracting cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient used to treat insomnia, anxiety and other ailments.

SPI expects to harvest its first crop in November. The company, which reported sales of $125.6m last year, said the global hemp market could more than triple to $15 billion in seven years.

“We want to be a part of that growth,” Chief Executive Officer Xiaofeng Peng, said in the statement.