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‘Hemp surging as an environmental alternative to other fibers’


Lawrence Serbin, Hemp Traders

INTERVIEW: A 31-year veteran of the hemp industry, Lawrence Serbin is president of California-based Hemp Traders, which he founded in 1994. He started Cannagrove, a producer of engineered hemp “wood” particleboard in 2018 after having researched such material since 2005. Serbin is past national director of the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp and past president and director at the national Hemp Industries Association. He served as chair of the California Hemp Advisory Board for the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 2017–2020. He is currently working to bring decortication, processing, and spinning facilities online to support the U.S. hemp construction and textile sectors.

HempToday: You have a wide, wide assortment of hemp products at Hemp Traders. What kind of products are trending now?

Lawrence Serbin: We have always sold hemp textiles, but at this moment, there is definitely a surge in the interest to use hemp as an environmental alternative to other fibers in textiles.

HT: You’ve mentioned that Hemp Traders now imports yarns from China since the machines don’t exist in the U.S. Won’t yarn from China always be less expensive?

LS: Perhaps. China has lower production costs due to a lower standard of living, so there is going to be a cost-benefit to working with China. And it is fairly inexpensive and environmental to ship things to and from China by boat. But we do have an opportunity to grow hemp in the United States.

HT: How is your work going with respect to bringing farmers and processors online to support the development of a U.S. supply chain for textiles and building materials? How do you see the investment picture shaping up there?

LS: Very well. We are growing our first farm size test crop in California’s Central Valley. The information we are getting this year will allow us to grow on a commercial scale in 2022. We have also set up a fiber processing facility near to where the hemp is grown.

HT: What are the economics of the hemp particle board you developed at Cannagrove? Is it even fair to ask, at this point, for price comparison with conventional wood-chip particle board?

LS: The first boards we made were more expensive than regular particleboard mainly due to having to ship the raw materials around the country to the factory that could produce it. The shipping costs were half of the cost of making the board. But when the hemp is made at a facility that is near to where the hemp is grown, it becomes much less expensive. And now with the higher costs of regular wood particleboard, hemp is going to be a less expensive alternative.

HT: What’s happening with hemp building materials in general? Do you see any significant movement in that market?

LS: One main problem with the hemp building market has been a lack of raw materials. Mostly we have had to import them. As we begin to grow more hemp in the United States for fiber, there will be much more material available at a lower cost. This will be what kick starts the hemp building industry.

HT: How do you see the arc of production for such biocomposite products going forward the next five years?

LS: I think we will see 2021 and 2022 begin to establish the markets for hemp fiber products and grain. After that, there will be a huge increase in demand with farmers increasing acres devoted to fiber and grain.

HT: Some parts of California don’t seem very friendly to hemp. What’s up with that in your state?

LS: There are two things going on. Some areas of the state have a history of marijuana production. Those areas are concerned that high CBD hemp flower varieties might cross-pollinate with their crop and lower the value. In other areas where people have grown for CBD, a pungent odor of cannabis around harvest time has had people complain. Overall there is overregulation of the hemp industry, especially when it comes to fiber crops, which don’t even produce a flower.

HT: When you started in hemp three decades ago, did you think the industry would develop faster than it has?

LS: In the beginning in the early 1990’s I thought we would first see industrial hemp legalized, followed by medical cannabis and then recreational cannabis. I thought this would all happen by the end of the decade. In reality we first saw medical marijuana legalized, followed by recreational, and then industrial. And it took over 25 years.

HT: Thirty-one years is a long time in hemp. You must have one or two heroes.

LS: There are a few people I admire. Canada legalized industrial hemp in the late 1990’s and two companies emerged to fill the demand for hemp foods. Hemp Oil Canada founded by Shawn Crew and Manitoba Harvest founded by Mike Fata. Those are good examples of what a professional hemp company should look like.

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Biofiber Hempcrete Blocks for zero carbon Trent Forensics Facility

Feb 11, 2021 

Trent University has a goal to store more carbon in the building materials of their new Forensics Facility than was emitted in making the materials. In order to offset the inevitable emissions from harvesting and manufacturing materials it is necessary to use biogenic (plant-based) materials that store carbon in the material.

Hemp is the plant-based material of choice for this project. We chose two hemp-based materials for the Trent Forensics facility: Just Biofiber hemp blocks to be the load-bearing walls of the building and NatureFibres hemp batts to insulate the stud wall cavities. This post will focus on the Just Biofiber blocks.

Just Biofiber hempcrete blocks are a new product being manufactured in Alberta, Canada. The blocks consist of a plastic frame around which hempcrete is cast and cured. The blocks look and act much like large Lego blocks, with the eight posts on the top of a block fitting into holes in the bottom of the block above.

The Just Biofiber blocks provide enough load-bearing capacity in the plastic frames to be the structural wall for the building, and offer R-21 of thermal performance. A mortar made from lime and chopped flax is used to seal between each block and glue is applied to the plastic posts to attach the blocks together.

We were excited to work with Just Biofiber hempcrete blocks, having watched the company go through initial development and testing very closely. In practice, we found the system had a few key flaws. Firstly, the glue that is required is smelly, toxic and messy. Our crew truly despised working with the glue. Secondly, the Lego-like fit between the blocks made for a fussy installation as the tolerance is around 1/8-inch and if the foundation isn’t perfectly level a lot of work is required to ensure the blocks actually fit. A lot of dry-stacking is required to ensure a fit, and shimming was constant throughout the process. Finally, there are threaded rods required within the blocks and these were fussy and slow to install. The relatively low thermal performance of the blocks required us to add a frame wall with more insulation to meet our R-40 target.

We loved working with a hempcrete product that didn’t require site mixing or a lengthy drying process, but feel that the Just Biofiber hempcrete blocks need more development before they are a cost-competitive and easy-to-install system. We hope to see Just Biofiber continue to innovate and improve their system and look forward to a chance to work with the product again in an updated form.

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Hempcrete Submitted for Certification in US Building Codes

The 6,000 sq. ft Cape Cod Hemp House, built in 2021-2022, is the largest hempcrete-insulated structure built in the US last year. Photo courtesy of Mpactful Ventures

The professional association representing the US hemp building industry moved forward to certify hemp and lime (hempcrete) insulation in US building codes this month.

Hempcrete was submitted as an appendix in the International Residential Codes on Jan. 10 by the US Hemp Building Foundation, the non-profit arm of the US Hemp Building Association.

The idea is to give U.S. building permitting departments a familiarity with the material, which is new to the United States after hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. 

“These documents will show a pathway for using hempcrete as a building material,” USHBA President Jacob Waddell told HempBuildMag. “The goal is to allow you to build with hempcrete without needing an alternative material variance,” he added. 

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An international committee of hemp building experts and advocates prepared the paperwork to submit to the International Code Council. IRC code experts will evaluate the paperwork in March and again in September to enshrine hemp + lime as an approved natural building material. 

Eventually, inclusion in the IRC should “allow for hempcrete to be accessible to the standard person to construct with it,” Waddell said. 

Hempcrete, a non-structural insulation made of hemp hurd (shiv) and lime binder, provides a superior insulation product when installed up to 1 foot thick in wall assemblies. The material is vapor-permeable, thermally regulating, fire resistant and and repels mold and pests. Hempcrete insulation is carbon negative due to the large amounts of carbon sequestered by the hemp plant via photosynthesis while growing.

Used widely in Europe

The US building industry has some catching up to do when it comes to the international use of hemp in building materials.

Hempcrete has been employed as a carbon-negative insulation for 30 years in Europe, as an insulating construction material for large department stores in the United Kingdom and multistory residential buildings and public facilities in France.

Thirty-unit hempcrete apartment building in Paris. Photo courtesy of North by Northwest Architectes.

Patchwork of US building departments

Right now in the United States, builders, engineers and architects who want to use hempcrete must gain approval project-by-project in the absence of an overarching national code to point to, said Texas-based developer Ray Kaderli, of the Hemp Build Network.

Kaderli’s company was just permitted by the city of San Antonio to build a hempcrete-insulated three-bedroom/two-bath 1,300 sq. ft. home. 

Kaderli, a member of USHBA, praised the organization for moving forward with certification for hempcrete. 

“With a new industry there are many things to do,” Kaderli said in an email. “This was one of the most important first steps. I’m grateful [USHBA] had the insight and discipline to focus in this direction.”

The certification process also leads the way to apply to certify hempcrete in the International Commercial Building Codes for commercial buildings in 2024, when the next application process begins, USHBA president Waddell said. 

The material still needs to pass various ASTM fire tests as well as tests for structural bracing, Waddell said, for which the foundation will continue to raise funds. 

Straw bale builders paved the way

USHBA hired engineering and natural building consultants, including two straw bale construction pioneers who helped get straw bale construction certified in the US residential building codes in the early 2000s. 

Right now, the application submitted to the IRC only includes one-story structures to be insulated with hempcrete wall assemblies without extra engineering. This is a start that will be built upon to expand hempcrete’s role in the building codes, as more data and research is submitted and approved, Waddell said. 

“Submitting to the IRC is just the first step in a very long process to get hempcrete where we’re able to use it more readily,” Waddell said. 

The USHBA has about 200 active members and raised about $50,000 through its foundation for certification expenses and a series of other projects, including workforce development and creating educational materials, Waddell said.

The organization will host a members-only online event on Saturday, Jan. 30, where more information about the IRC certification will be shared.

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6,000-sq. ft hemp home befuddled permit officials 

The Massachusetts building permit official who approved one of last year’s largest hempcrete projects built on US soil last year, was initially confused at the rough inspection of the Cape Cod Hemp House, said Mary Dempsey, of Mpactful Ventures. 

“The building inspector took one look and said, ‘Wait a minute where’s your plywood?’ Then he muttered, ‘I gotta go study these plans better,’” she told HempBuildMag.

Even though the Cape Cod Hemp House relied on engineering approval and didn’t have difficulty getting a permit, Dempsey said including hempcrete in the IRC codes will help local building permitting authorities better understand how it works and what it can and cannot do. Mpactful Ventures and Dempsey helped steer the USHBA study group to gather the paperwork and research together to submit to the IRC. 

“People from all over the world were helping by reading this [document] to hopefully move an entire industry forward,” Dempsey said. “I’m really proud to have been part of it.”

Jean Lotus is editor and publisher of HempBuild Magazine.

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Extracting High-value Products from Hemp Waste



Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is cultivated for its fiber (bast fiber) and its edible seeds as well as some medicinal products. When bast fibers are separated from the hemp stem, what’s left is called hemp hurds. These woody residues are the least valuable part of the hemp stem and are treated as a by-product of fiber production, even though they represent the largest fraction of the hemp plant.

Extracting High-value Products from Hemp Waste

Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is cultivated for its fiber (bast fiber) and its edible seeds as well as some medicinal products [1]. When bast fibers are separated from the hemp stem, what’s left is called hemp hurds. These woody residues are the least valuable part of the hemp stem and are treated as a by-product of fiber production, even though they represent the largest fraction of the hemp plant. Hemp hurds can be used in a range of applications such as animal bedding, construction materials, and garden mulch [2], but they are still generally considered as waste.

Slow Pyrolysis
However, thermochemical processing of hemp hurds can produce some high-value products. One particular thermochemical process called slow pyrolysis can be used to convert hemp hurds into biochar, liquids (distillates), and gases [3]. These are produced in approximately equal amounts, although the process conditions can be adjusted to maximize the yield of a particular fraction.

Slow pyrolysis is usually used to convert biomass into biochar, a type of carbon-rich charcoal that is used as a soil improver or to store carbon. Liquid distillates are also produced, but they are considered a by-product and are often burned or dumped. However, these liquid distillates contain bioactive compounds and could be collected to generate additional income.

In this study, four types of industrial hemp hurds were thermally processed and converted into liquid distillates by slow pyrolysis at different temperatures [5]. The team investigated the chemical composition of the distillates to identify possible valuable molecules or molecule groups. They believe this is the first time that large samples (kilograms) have been studied in this way. Previous studies have focused on small, lab-scale samples (grams) [4].

The authors processed the hurds using slow pyrolysis at relatively low process temperatures from room temperature up to the maximum operating temperature of 350 ̊C. They collected raw distillates at three stages of the slow pyrolysis process (drying, torrefaction, and pyrolysis).

Detailed Analysis of Samples
Various analytical techniques were employed to study the samples. These included Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, one-dimensional (1D) and two-dimensional (2D) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, liquid chromatography–high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC–HRMS), and two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (2D GC-MS). For example, FTIR spectroscopy was used to obtain information regarding functional groups of all the hemp hurd distillate fractions. All spectra were measured using Bruker’s Alpha FTIR spectrometer equipped with attenuated total reflection diamond, a sensitive 2 × 2 mm diamond crystal surface, and sample compartment RT-DLaTGS.

The team identified and measured some potentially valuable molecules for the first time. The analyses showed remarkable differences in the concentration of compounds in different distillates. The relevant compounds came from three different hemp hurd samples, especially from torrefaction and pyrolysis phase distillates condensed below 100 ̊C.

Acetic acid was the main component of all samples. Other interesting compounds included guaiacol and syringol derivatives such as 2,6- Dimethoxyphenol, guaiacol (2-Methoxyphenol), vanillin, and eugenol.
Most of these compounds are expensive to make because they appear in low concentrations in distillates, which means they must be separated and purified (although several modern scalable techniques are available). Such compounds could be used as purified products for nutritional, pharmaceutical, and agricultural purposes. Vanillin and eugenol, for example, are used as ingredients by the functional food and pharmaceutical sectors.
The authors estimate that one ton of hurds (€200 at current prices) would produce about 300 kg biochar (worth around €400 at current prices). It would also produce about 40 kg of acetic acid, the main compound in the distillates, worth around €100 as a bulk product. One ton of hurds would generate around 1.3 kg of 1-hydroxybutan-2-one, the most expensive of the minor distillate compounds. In principle, this could be purified to higher than 95% purity and sold for €1300–6500. 1-hydroxybutan-2-one is often used as a flavor or fragrance agent.

Conclusion
This study provides useful baseline data for chemical profiling of wood distillates, especially hemp hurd distillates. It also shows clear potential to generate high-value products from hemp hurds by utilizing slow pyrolysis to generate biochar and distillates that contain potentially useful ingredients. The whole process can be optimized to generate the most valuable products, varying factors such as temperature, heating rates, and residence times. Further processing of distillates would involve separation and purification procedures such as short path distillation and centrifugal partition chromatography. The researchers recommend further research to evaluate the economic potential in detail, for example, by considering the purification process costs and the market value and volume of high-value chemicals, and the business potential in general.
Bruker offers the broadest range of analytical techniques used in the emerging global Cannabis Industry already today. The portfolio includes benchtop and floor-standing NMR, optical methods like FTIR and Raman spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. This makes Bruker the only end-to-end solution provider with applications tagging into every stage of the Cannabis value chain. We enable our customers to generate new revenue streams and reduce waste.

Bruker does not support, encourage, or intend that its products or services be used in connection with any illegal use, cultivation or trade of cannabis or cannabis products.  Bruker products are intended to be used only in compliance with all applicable laws in a manner that promotes public safety and in connection with any lawful and approved scientific or medical research activities.

References
[1] Cherney, J.H. et al, (2016). Industrial Hemp in North America: Production, Politics and Potential. Agronomy.
https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4395/6/4/58
[2] Carus, M. and Sarmento, L., (2016) The European Hemp Industry: Cultivation, processing and applications for fibres, shivs, seeds and flowers. EIHA.
https://eiha.org/media/2016/05/16-05-17-European-Hemp-Industry-2013.pdf
[3] Amini, E. et al, (2019) Characterization of pyrolysis products from slow pyrolysis of live and dead vegetation native to the southern United States. Fuel.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0016236118314832
[4] Branca, C. et al, (2017) Experimental analysis about the exploitation of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) in pyrolysis. Fuel Processing Technology.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378382016310372
[5] Salami, A. et al, (2020) Complementary chemical characterization of distillates obtained from industrial hemp hurds by thermal processing. Industrial Crops and Products.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0926669020306774?via%3Dihub

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Is Hemp Really Stronger Than Steel? How?

Is Hemp Really Stronger Than Steel? How?

Let us think of the comparative strength of a metal known to be strong and a hemp plant fiber. Which do you think would be stronger? You’re tempted to say hemp. But is hemp stronger than steel? The comparative strength of steel and a plant fiber, let us say. What would be your common-sense response?
We actually asked this question randomly to a number of people of different age-groups. We simply wanted to check whether our intuitive response matches with theirs. It did. Almost everyone said – steel would be stronger. Only two people refused to answer. They believed there was a trick in the question somewhere.
The common-sense response would be correct in most cases. With one exception: hemp fiber. Fibers from this non-narcotic variety of Cannabis Sativa can be stronger than steel, experts have demonstrated.

By Way of Clarification

You have read right: hemp does belong to the same plant species as the drug cannabis or marijuana: Cannabis Sativa. However, hemp is not a drug. It cannot give you a high. Hemp does not have more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to do that.
THC is the substance with psychoactive qualities, present in the narcotic cannabis at a concentration level of 7.5-10% or more. Hence the mind-altering capacity of cannabis or marijuana. Hemp is clean.

Is hemp stronger than steel? The Truth – Revealed

Strength in scientific terms gets calculated in two different ways mainly. Hemp fibers have been studied from both of these ways of measuring strength. Counter-intuitive though it seems, hemp fiber has proven to be stronger than steel from both these angles. Below, we describe in detail how that is possible.

Tensile and Compressive Strength

Tensile strength is the ability to withstand tension. Compressive strength is the ability to endure compression. In other words, how much tension or tautness can something take before it gets permanently deformed? That is the tensile strength of that material.
For example, how much pulling can a rope endure before it tears? That is the rope’s tensile strength. To tear is to get permanently deformed. It could also be measured in terms of weight endurance. For instance, how much weight can a tree branch take before it cracks and breaks?
The weight at which the tree branch cracks and breaks is beyond its tensile strength threshold. The maximum weight it can endure is indicative of its ultimate tensile strength.
Similarly, how much compression can something take before it loses its capacity to mend itself? That is compressive strength.
Think of spring in this context. Normally, a spring will bounce back to its own shape as soon as you remove the pressure you are applying to it. However, it is also possible to keep squeezing a spring until it is no longer able to regain its own shape.
The degree of pressing a spring can take without losing its shape permanently is its compressive strength. In simple terms, the pressure something can withstand before cracking and breaking or tearing is its tensile strength. The force applied takes the form of pulling at both ends.
It can also take the form of piling on increasing amounts of weight on something. till it cracks and breaks. The amount of pressure something can endure without bending and losing its shape permanently is its compressive strength. The force applied in this case takes the form of pushing from both ends.

The Tensile Strength of Steel

Metallurgy, the science of metals, mentions steel to be one of the strongest metals. Strictly speaking, steel is not metal as it is an alloy of iron and other elements, among which carbon is a non-metal. That does not make a difference to the strength of steel, though.
There are different varieties of steel with varying tensile strengths. The weakest form of steel is plain carbon steel with a tensile strength of up to 150 MPa. The strongest variety is ausformed steel with 3000 MPa of tensile strength.

The Tensile Strength of Hemp Fibers

In an article published in 2003 in the Materials Research Innovations, the authors report extensively on the tensile strength of hemp fibers of different diameters. The general rule in the case of synthetic fibers is that a reduction in the diameter of the fiber also decreases the faults.
That implies a lesser diameter of synthetic fibers gives it higher tensile strength. Authors Prasad and Sain demonstrate in their article that this same principle is applicable to hemp fibers also. Hemp fibers with a diameter of 4 μm (micrometer) have a tensile strength of 4200 MPa.
In contrast, the tensile strength of hemp fibers of 66 μm is 250 MPa only. The extensive experiments by Prasad and Sain demonstrate that the thickest hemp fiber with the least tensile strength (250 MPa) has more tensile strength than the variety of steel with the least tensile strength (150 MPa).
Their experiments also demonstrate that the thinnest fibers of hemp with the maximum tensile strength (4200 MPa) is stronger than the steel variety with the highest tensile strength (3000 MPa). The range of tensile strength possessed by hemp fibers of different diameters is, thus, more than the tensile strength range of different varieties of steel.

Is hemp stronger than steel? A Simpler Explanation of the Answer

It is possible to explain the above feature of strength in simpler terms, without using the scientific jargon ‘tensile strength’. It will take a lot more pressure to crack or break composite materials made of hemp fibers than the amount of pressure needed to crack or break things made of steel.
This is true across different varieties of steel and varying diameters of hemp fibers. The weakest hemp fiber needs more pressure to crack and break than the weakest variety of steel. The strongest variety of steel needs less pressure to crack and break than the strongest variety of hemp fiber.
Hemp has the capacity to endure double the weight of steel before it cracks and breaks. That is how much stronger hemp is than steel.

The Compressive Strengths of Hemp and Steel

The ability of hemp not to bend to compression is nearly six times that of steel, experts say. From the angle of compressive strength, therefore, hemp is six times more bend-resistant than steel.
That makes hemp stronger than steel from both aspects of strength measurement. The next time someone asks you – Is hemp stronger than steel? You can confidently answer – hemp, and then educate everyone on ‘how’ it’s stronger.

Strength Measurement in Applications

On June 19, 2017, CNBC reported on an episode from the “Jay Leno’s Garage’ show, where Leno drove a sportscar named Renew. Former Dell executive Bruce Dietzen got this sportscar specially made for himself out of 100 pounds of hemp fibers.
Both Dietzen and Leno punched the car with considerable force several times. Their hands were hurt, but there was no dent in the car, unlike a car with a steel body. According to the owner, his hemp car is 10 times stronger than any car made of steel.

A 2018 article in Material Science recommends the use of hemp cables instead of cables made of harmonic steel for roofs with hyperbolic paraboloid cable nets. According to the author, this substitution would be both cost-effective and environment-friendly without involving any compromise in the strength aspect.
News 18 reported on August 26, 2019, that the Canadian Hempheath Group has devised the world’s first aircraft made entirely from hemp. This four-seater plane has everything, from the wings to the body, the seats, and pillows are made from hemp.
The company intends to run it on hemp biofuel also. Hemp’s superior ability to endure more weight than steel and its considerably higher bendability makes it 10 times stronger than steel, says the founder of the company.

Sources:

Hemp Cables, a Sustainable Alternative to Harmonic Steel for Cable Nets

Tensile Strength of Steel And Other Metals

A Study in Physical and Mechanical Properties of Hemp Fibres

Vishal Vivek  
December 3, 2019

https://hempfoundation.net/is-hemp-really-stronger-than-steel-how/#:~:text=Hemp%20fibers%20with%20a%20diameter,%CE%BCm%20is%20250%20MPa%20only

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New Wind Generation Technology Produces 6 Times More Energy

A wind power company, SheerWind, from Minnesota USA has announced its new Invelox wind power generation technology. The company says its turbine could generate six times more energy than the amount produced by traditional turbines mounted on towers.via: News Direct

source/image: News Direct

Invelox does not rely on high wind speeds. It captures wind at any speed, even as low as 2 miles per hour.The result is the design is capable of producing 600% more energy due to the low wind speed.

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Industrial hemp is an ancient crop that’s making its way into modern construction. 

People have grown hemp for millennia to make products like clothes, rope, fuel, medicine, and paper. But since the 1930s, it’s been prohibitively expensive or illegal to produce hemp in the U.S. and many other nations, mainly because the plant is closely related to marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, hemp doesn’t get you high because it contains very low levels of the psychoactive chemical THC.

“Industrial hemp is a member of the family Cannabis sativa,” Matthew Mead, founder and CEO of the natural building materials company Hempitecture, told Freethink. “It’s kind of like the sober cousin of THC-producing varieties of hemp. Today, the definition of industrial hemp is that it has 0.3% THC or less.”

Industrial hemp is an ancient crop that’s making its way into modern construction. 

Hempitecture is one of a growing number of companies using hemp for its durability, versatility, and sustainability as a building material. The Idaho-based startup is focusing on insulation. Hemp-based insulation products are as effective at insulating buildings as common insulators like fiberglass, and they’re significantly better for the environment. 

Hemp is a natural product that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals as some synthetic insulation does. What’s more, growing the crop removes carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, hemp is about twice as effective at sequestering carbon as trees. 

Despite its sustainability and wide array of uses, the federal government had long chosen not to differentiate hemp from marijuana. The 2018 Farm Bill changed that by legalizing hemp production on the federal level. Although hemp remains illegal in many states, the industry has seen sudden and chaotic growth in recent years, and is projected to grow from roughly $5 billion in 2019 to $36 billion by 2026.

“I think we’re actually coming back full circle to our ancient roots of building with the Earth,” Mead told Freethink.

The ancient roots of hemp 

Hemp was likely one of the first agricultural crops. Its history in human culture stretches back at least 10,000 years to modern-day China and Taiwan, where archaeologists discovered pottery that had cords made from hemp. Historical texts and other archaeological discoveries suggest the Chinese grew hemp for a wide variety of purposes, like making clothes, medicine, and paper. In fact, the world’s oldest known book — a Buddhist text called the Diamond Sūtra — was printed on hemp. 

Evidence of ancient hemp use has been found across many parts of the planet.

In India, legend holds that the Buddha ate a single hemp seed every day during his ascetic period. In Japan, brides used to wear hemp strands for symbolic purposes during weddings. And in Rome, engineers added hemp fibers to mortar to make stronger bridge abutments. 

In 1606, hemp made its way to North America. The European colonists at Jamestown grew the crop for sails, clothes, and rope, while later settlers heading west used hempen canvas to cover their wagons. Hemp became such a valuable crop during the Colonial Era that the British government even mandated farmers to grow it. Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp on their estates; records indicate that Washington grew it on all five of his Mount Vernon farms. But despite hemp’s agricultural importance in early America, cotton eventually became the fiber crop of choice, mainly because it’s easier to harvest than hemp. 

American hemp production slowed dramatically in the 20th century when the U.S. government passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which taxed the sale of any form of cannabis. Some have argued that powerful actors like William Randolph Hearst and the Du Pont family, both of whom had economic interests in alternative fibers, aimed to kill off the hemp industry by having the legislation passed, but there’s no hard evidence of a conspiracy. 

During World War II, the U.S. government lifted the cannabis ban and encouraged farmers to grow the crop so the military could produce things like parachute webbing, rope, and thread for shoes. A 1942 government film called “Hemp for Victory” extolled the crop’s history and utility: “For the sailor, no less than the hangman, hemp was indispensable […] American hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy, as well as our industries.” Yet after the Allied Victory, the government reinstated the ban on hemp production.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was overturned by the Supreme Court in the 1969 case Timothy Leary v. United States  yes, that Timothy Leary  and repealed by Congress shortly afterward as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which designated Hemp a Schedule I substance alongside its intoxicating relatives. 

It was only with the 2018 Farm Bill that hemp was taken off the list of prohibited substances and legalized at the federal level, though several states had taken steps to make industrial hemp production viable in the years leading up to that. 

As Freethink reported with marijuana, legalization has helped to renew interest in the use of hemp in a number of areas, including as a building material. Today, a number of industrial hemp companies, including  Hempitecture, are looking to the stuff as an alternative to currently used materials. 

To that end, Hempitecture has created a new form of insulation, called hemp wool, made of processed industrial hemp, a binder, and a fire retardant.

It works just as well as synthetic insulation in terms of heat regulation, fire resistance, and preventing the growth of mold. Beyond that, it doesn’t require petrochemicals or other toxic substances to produce and instead works as a carbon sink.

Mead further explained the practical benefits of hemp wool to Freethink:

“What we’ve found is that hemp wool is just better for everybody that comes in contact with it, whether it’s the general contractor who’s on site everyday, the laborers or the installation technicians that are installing it, to the homeowner,” Mead said. “Everybody is happier when they’re around hemp wool because they’re not itchy, they’re not worried about toxic off-gassing or abrasiveness on their skin.”

The insulation works and is currently being used in many building projects. The next challenge is getting it adopted by more people who are currently buying materials that require a great deal of carbon to produce. To do that, Hempitecture is going to have to scale up production. 

Hemp in every home?

Though it’s ramping up, American hemp production is still limited. Because of the cost of importing it, hemp wool is still more expensive than other insulation materials in the U.S. 

Mead hopes to begin domestic production of hemp wool by the middle of 2022, at which point the product may become cost competitive with its alternatives. The price may then continue to fall if industrial hemp production continues to increase.

Growing more hemp for use in building materials and manufacturing fewer petrochemical-derived synthetic insulators could go a long way toward cleaning up the environment. Perhaps one day, the widespread use of hemp-based building materials will make construction cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly.

By Stephen Johnson October 19, 2021

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Down To The Last Stem: Making The Most Of Cannabis Plant Waste

Another successful harvest is complete. Your cannabis flower has been cured and trimmed, and the trim has been made into extract or edible — or better yet, both. There’s just one thing left to do: Clean up the plant mess. You’ve got a load of fan leaves, cannabis stalks, root balls and soil that need to be dealt with. While it’s tempting to simply break them down and throw them into large black garbage bags, you’d rather be more environmentally friendly, right? But how?

Going green is a practice most cannabis growers want to embrace with their gardens. However, despite the eco-friendly nature of the cannabis industry, growers in legal states are struggling to make the most of their cannabis plant waste, with much of it ending up in a landfill.

So, what can cannabis growers do? Obviously, the answer to this question depends on the type of grow they’re operating — small-scale medical grows won’t have the same options as large recreational grows. In either case, cannabis plant waste shouldn’t even be referred to as waste; there’s just so much that can be done with it.

Six Options For Reusing And Recycling Your Plant Waste

1. Compost

There are two options when it comes to composting cannabis plant waste. The first is on-site composting. If your grow is on a large enough property, you can create your own organic fertilizer there, but it will have to be far larger an area than a typical at-home composter in order to accommodate cannabis stalks, root balls and fan leaves. If you’re going to start your own compost, you can’t just throw your cannabis waste in a big pile outside and hope for the best; you’ll need a compost area with good drainage, the ability to completely cover it, proper circulation and diverse contents. In addition to the cannabis plant waste, you’ll need to add things like kitchen scraps for moisture. If your grow operation is located outside, an added bonus to making your own compost is that you can use it on your plants. Save the earth, save a few bucks.

If you can’t start your own compost pile, another option is to use an industrial compost facility. Disposing of your cannabis plant waste via an industrial compost facility is undoubtedly the most convenient option, as most facilities provide the bins for the waste and even pick it up. You can then buy compost from these facilities for a great price. The issue with industrial compost facilities is that many of them receive federal funding and thus have to follow federal regulations, which means they can’t take cannabis waste. Some industrial composting facilities are privately owned, however, and will gladly take your cannabis plant waste. Call around to your local composters to find out whether or not they’ll take your cannabis plant waste.

2. Edibles

Fan leaves and cannabis roots aren’t waste at all. In fact, they have medicinal value and should be used. Fan leaves are well known to be good for making teas and juicing. The fan leaves are good for you and are full of all kinds of nutrients.

Cannabis roots have a long history of medicinal use. According to a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the journey of cannabis roots as a medicine began in Ancient Rome when Roman author Pliny the Elder claimed in his encyclopedia Natural Histories that cannabis root could treat stiff joints and a variety of other inflammation-related conditions.

“The current available data on the pharmacology of cannabis root components provide significant support to the historical and ethnobotanical claims of efficacy,” the study concludes.

The study also provides THC content for all parts of the plant. The roots contain no significant THC, the stems and fan leaves tested at less than 1 percent THC, and the flower being tested came in at 15.2 percent. So, while the roots may not contain significant THC, other chemical compounds in the plant matter may provide relief for a variety of inflammation-related ills.

Since fan leaves don’t contain much THC or CBD, they’re most useful for juicing and teas. Roots don’t contain any THC, so their medicinal properties can be accessed by making a simple cannabis root tea. You won’t want to juice cannabis roots, as the flavor and consistency aren’t appealing. If this is the route you choose to take, there’s plenty of info and recipes out there to help you get the most out of these healthful ingredients.

3. Topicals

Cannabis stems and fan leaves contain trace amounts of THC — .3 percent and .8 percent, respectively, according to the aforementioned study. This makes them a viable source for medicinal use in the form of topicals. Since most cannabis growers are left with vast amounts of fan leaves, extracting medicine from them by making an oil is an economic and ecologically friendly method.

Once you’ve made your cannabis oil (stick to coconut or olive oil for topicals; rubbing butter on your skin is problematic), there are many recipes online that use other herbs to complement cannabis, both with their fragrance and medicinal qualities. Herbs such as rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme all offer medicinal and aromatic benefits that will make your topicals extra effective.

4. Mulch

One simple, effective and inexpensive way to repurpose cannabis stalks is to turn them into mulch. Put the cannabis stalks through a wood chipper and you’ll have mulch to put on your garden beds, or wherever else you may need mulch. It provides a great cover for the winter and will eventually break down and benefit the soil.

5. Fiber

Long before cannabis and hemp prohibition were even considered, our forefathers were using hemp stalks to create textiles including ropes, clothing and even sails for their ships. Hemp and marijuana are different plants, but their hardy stalks can be used in many of the same ways, one of which being fiber. Creating rope, in particular, is fairly simple and can be done with rough, inexpensive and easy-to-acquire farm equipment. The wonderful world of YouTube has several videos on how to process hemp stalks on a small scale. Cannabis stalks can be processed in the same way.

Check out the below YouTube clip courtesy of Mainely Acres about processing hemp on a small scale:https://www.youtube.com/embed/cqCpFXR1OdI?start=461&feature=oembed

If you’re looking to process cannabis stalks on a larger scale, you’ll want to partner with someone capable of processing stalks into a fiber. It may take some digging to find the right partner, but sustainable fiber producers are out there and eager to work with new materials, if regulations allow. If you’re in Colorado, you’re in luck. State laws were just updated to allow, and actually encourage, cannabis growers to turn their plant waste into industrial fibers.

Cannabis Recycling

Hempcrete is made from the center core of the cannabis stalk, also known as the hurds.

6. Hempcrete

An underappreciated way to utilize hemp and cannabis stalks is to turn them into hempcrete. Unlike fiber, which is made from the outer layer of a cannabis stalk, hempcrete is made from the center core of the cannabis stalk, also known as the hurds. To turn those hurds into hempcrete, chop them up and mix them with a lime-based binder and water. A common ratio is:

  • Four parts hurds
  • One part lime binder
  • One part water

Different ratios produce different strengths, depending on the application, so it’s good to play around with ratios until you find the right one for your project. The hempcrete mixture will need to be placed in a metal or wood structural frame to dry. The drying takes at least a month, so it will need to be done during a dry season.

So, before you bag up those remnants of your last grow for the landfill, consider one of these options to help make the most out of your cannabis plant waste. Not only will you possibly be able to profit, but you’ll also be helping to save the planet.

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Hemp 3D printer filament: A sustainable alternative

Cannabis has over recent time been a growing topic of debate. As it is discussed in various ways for its medical uses, environmental benefits and sustainable abilities, it is only natural that Hemp 3D printer filament would also come up at some point. While it is not the only alternative 3D printer filaments we covered on 3Dnatives, here is what you need to know about this 3D printing material.

The history

One material that historically has been a big part of the world culture in over 10.000 years is: hemp. It was one of the first plants domesticated by Humans and have been used in day-to-day life for its solid fibres, nourishing seeds and natural medicinal properties. It was even commonly used as paper and the growth of the plant encouraged by Kings. However around the 1950s a decline came about when cannabis was demonized for its euphoric properties. Since then the full plant has been looked down upon in big parts of the USA and Europe and the use of the material declined drastically.

hemp 3D printer filament

Industrial hemp material

In recent years however, the focus have turned back into a positive spin for the versatile material. More and more places are changing legislation, such as in California, and opening up for implementing the plant into everyday life. So as Hemp is an environmental-friendly material, it could be the solution to a lot of environmental problems. The plant reduces water consumption, pesticide use, and much more. The versatility of the plant can be used for a ton of things, such as biofuel and textiles. This is where 3D printing comes into play, as a lesser-known usage of this plant is for 3D printer filament. Along with hemp filament being developed it brings a new aspect to the additive manufacturing industry.



Manufacturing process

3D printing is improving the manufacturing processes in terms of reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing by reducing waste and speeding up the processes while often using less energy. Still, there are a way to go before a completely closed loop system and environmental-friendly filaments on the market. Mistakes and bad 3D prints happens from time to time. When using traditional plastics this can build up a lot of unwanted and unneeded waste. A way to counteract this is to print with biodegradable or recyclable material, such as PLA and Hemp. Because of hemps natural abilities it has no need for pesticides, it fertilises the soil it grows in and can grow more densely than other crops. Already these aspects make hemp a good material to work with as an eco-solution. PLA, which hemp is often combined with, is already biodegradable on its own. This based in PLA being sourced from materials such as sugar canes and cornstarch. Therefor combining PLA and Hemp in a hybrid material will bring new possibilities to the table.

hemp 3D printer filament

The process of making hemp filament is fairly simple. Most commonly you will see a material like PLA as a polymer base. The hemp fibre is grounded up into fine particles and mixed into it. This process is done in the same way a lot of other hybrid filaments are made. However, it is often made without added colour to keep the positive impact all the way through and has a special texture to add to the print. With this and as hemp is good for the environment, it is no wonder that there is a demand for it.

hemp 3D printer filament

The debate on how legal the various filaments are, depends on the individual locations. In France the law is set to the filament having less than 0,2% Tetrahyrdocannabinol or THC for short. But the general laws are currently changing in various locations around the world. One place where legislation seems to be moving fast over recent years is the US. In 2014 then president Obama signed the agricultural act of 2014. This amongst other, allowed for universities and state departments of agriculture to start cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes, opening up for the market to develop. This year alone at least 38 of the states considered legislation related to the hemp industry, covering everything from clarifying laws to establishing new licensing requirements and programs. Out of this at least 5 states have enacted legislation to establish hemp research and industrial pilot programs along with more states.

Main producers

There are already a couple of companies out with their version of the hemp 3D printer filament. One such company is 3D4MAKER. They have developed their product for the market of biodegradable plastics with the ability to recycle or compost the filament afterwards.

hemp 3D printer filament

Another company is 3Dfuel. The company have released a series of eco-friendly composite materials. Partnering with c2renew to produce the line, they came up with 4 materials so far. They consist of Wound Up: a coffee filament, Buzzed: a beer filament, Landfillament: a trash filament and Entwined: their hemp filament. All of which is produced using waste materials and Ingeo PLA to provide functional and sustainable 3D prints. 3Dfuel even released an improved version of their hemp filament. In the v2 version they basically reduced the particle size of the hemp material. The finer particles allows for an increase in the percentage used in the filament with the visible bio-fill creating a unique texture. Showing an interest in improving the possibilities.

A newer company, doing so as well and pushing the natural material is Kanèsis. Starting out slow with a campaign that didn’t take off, they still managed to fund their HempBioPlastic or HBP®. The company persisted, launched their website and have worked to develop solutions for a sustainable world ever since. On their site they sell the HBP filament as well as a Weed filament. The main difference between the two, being the THC levels. The Italian company is sole committed to natural materials designed for the manufacturing industry, bringing down the environmental impact and providing all-around benefits.

hemp 3D printer filament

Kanèsis’ HempBioPlastic or HBP®

How to use Hemp 3D printer filament

The general printing properties of most of the hemp 3D printer filament closely resembles PLA filament. However, it might be even easier to print with as it, depending on which producer you buy it from, can print at 10°C lower than PLA. The filament is also odorless, which helps for indoor use in smaller spaces. And it has low-warp, making a heated bed unnecessary when printing. Though if you have one an optimal heat setting seems to be around 45°C. Since hemp 3D printer filament is easy to print and works in the same manner as PLA, it can be used in a variety of ways. However, do to the ease of use, along with the biodegradable attributes it would be good for daily prototyping. Not to mention other projects of experimenting that wouldn’t have the need for colouring. Of course if you are searching for a specific look or texture to your print, it might be worth checking out as well. Although the hemp filament is a hybrid filament at this point, it seldom has the same texture as traditional PLA.

Hemp 3D printer filament

The price varies quit a lot form one hemp printer filament to the next. Kanesis sells their HBP and Weed filament for around $37 for a 500g spool. 3D4MAKERS is around the same kg price with a 750g spool for ca. $48. In the more expensive corner you can look to 3Dfuel’s entwined that sells for $45,99 for 500g. Depending on the producer the prices varies, along with the actual plant material percentage in the filaments.

3Dfuel created a short video to introduce you to the concept of hemp 3D printer filament:

 

 

So while there are bio-filaments on the market already, it is only the start. Both established and new companies will continue to develop and improve their products. What to you think of the hemp 3D printer filament? Comment below.

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Pot Porsches and Hempcrete are here

From stalled legislation to falling stock prices, cannabis didn’t have the greatest year. But investors are finding something to be optimistic about heading into 2022: industrial hemp.

Demand is poised to rise for hemp — the staid sister to the mood-altering forms of cannabis — as it’s increasingly adopted for a wide range of uses, including concrete blocks, clothing and even car parts. The shift is driven by environmental incentives such as carbon caps and single-use plastic bans, which are making some natural materials preferable to those made from petrochemicals.

“Industrial hemp is the biggest opportunity in the cannabis sector as a whole,” said Mina Mishrikey, a partner at Merida Capital Partners. His firm has invested around 90% to 95% of its $500 million in assets under management in cannabis businesses centered around THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but aims to make more investments in industrial hemp, Mishrikey told me.

Hemp could use the boost after the market struggled to capitalize on the hype following the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp and led to over-planting when not enough companies were ready to create end products. In 2021, the number of acres of hemp planted fell to 33,844 from 70,530 a year earlier and 465,787 in 2019 according to New Frontier Data.

Adding to the challenges, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently refused to regulate one of hemp's best-known products — CBD, or cannabidiol — as a dietary ingredient, casting a specter of uncertainty over the otherwise booming market for creams, tinctures and gummies.

As a material, hemp remains more expensive than alternatives that come from petrochemicals. But India, Canada, Germany and South Africa are among the countries cracking down on plastics in 2022, making alternatives more economical. Meanwhile, pressure to shift from oil and gas to renewable industries is increasing and carbon credits are becoming more valuable — and that’s an area where hemp has an advantage.

Mishrikey sees the plant’s ability to capture carbon while it’s growing, and its ability to use less water than cotton, as key factors that help it disrupt a range of products. Just one category of industrial hemp alone — precast concrete — is worth around $20 billion, roughly the same size as the current U.S. legal marijuana market, he pointed out.

His fund’s investments include Canadian Rockies Hemp Corp., based in Bruderheim, Alberta, which processes hemp for use in textiles, pulp and paper, animal bedding, rope, composites and automobile components, according to its website. Another is Bast Fibre Technologies Inc., based in Victoria, British Columbia, which has a processing technology to make nonwoven fabrics with natural fibers including hemp. That could be helpful for the booming market in wipes, which are ripe for disruption due to the sewer-clogging gobs known as fatbergs.

Hemp could play a role in many categories: plastics, textiles, papers, building materials, protein for humans and animals, and concrete of all forms. Some of the more innovative applications include hempcrete, where hemp fibers are infused in the mortar, and a Porsche car with some components made of hemp. Some see hemp as a viable alternative to almost anything made from petrochemicals, due to the properties of its cellulose fibers.

The U.S. will have some catching up to do: China is the leading grower of hemp and is  tiptoeing into the CBD market, starting with Hong Kong. The plants also require different agricultural and processing techniques compared to other forms of cannabis, meaning the supply chain will have to be built out from scratch. Processing the plant's tough fibers, called decortication, is an arduous practice that takes heavy machinery and has created something of a bottleneck.

That bottleneck is about to get some help from a $500 million impact fund by rePlant Hemp Advisors, launched in early November by Geoff Whaling, co-founder of Collective Growth Corp., and others including Michael Woods, former chief executive officer and chief operating officer of Rothschild & Co. Asset Management U.S. The fund plans to help develop U.S. infrastructure to process hemp and improve the supply chain, focusing on hemp for food and fiber.

“I probably have a dozen companies call me a week” about using hemp in their products, Whaling said, citing brands like Chobani, Wrangler jeans and Tesla.

“They all want to know where they can get 100 tons of fiber a year, and the answer, at this point, is nowhere,” he said. “No major manufacturer will sign unless there's a two-year supply in a warehouse.”

But slowly, that’s changing.

“We're seeing more countries advancing and mandating use of sustainable fibers, more auto companies adopting natural fiber solutions,” Whaling said. “It really is an industrial hemp revolution.”

Number of the week 

16.6% The compound annual growth rate of the legal U.S. cannabis market from 2020 to 2025, as estimated by New Frontier Data in their 2021 Year in Review report.