It was in October 2020 when we announced that the European Parliament had voted in favour of restoring the authorised THC level on the field from 0,2 % to 0,3 %.
One year later, and after long discussions aiming at working out compromises between the three EU institutions, the final proposal of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was adopted today by the council, following the final vote at the European Parliament on November 24.
The new CAP, that will enter into force on January 1st, 2023, recognises the possibility for farmers to receive Direct Payments for hemp varieties registered in the EU Catalogue that have a maximum level of THC of 0,3 %.
This change entails a potential enlargement of the number of hemp varieties accepted under the EU Catalogue. As a reminder, this level only applies if farmers want to receive direct payments, meaning that in Europe it is possible to plant hemp with THC level on the field over 0,3 %, provided it is authorised by national regulations (e.g., 0,6 % in Italy; 1 % in Czech Republic).
“I have been fighting for this moment for over a decade. My special thanks go to our amazing team in Brussels, who have made this possible.” Says Daniel Kruse, pioneer of the hemp industry and President of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA).
“This is a great day for the hemp sector and another step towards a greener future for Europe. However, if compared to other countries worldwide, 0, 3 % is still a low limit; for instance, Switzerland, in the heart of Europe, has a higher number, and other EU countries already work with higher limits as well.
“Scientific studies and many years of experience prove that higher limits pose absolutely no safety risk for consumers. The EU lays the foundation for a growing, green and sustainable industrial hemp sector across our Union and it has the chance to achieve a level playing field again in global competition when it comes to the industrial hemp sector.”
“I am proud of what has been achieved today. We worked hard to ensure that hemp had the recognition it deserves in the Common Agricultural Policy. I would say that this small step reflects that EU legislators are closer to fully acknowledging and recognising the existence of a legitimate European hemp sector.” Says Lorenza Romanese, EIHA Managing Director.
“However, as I have said other times, this is not it. We need to keep working together, as there are still other areas where hemp deserves to be better regulated, but we are on the right track.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An overview of Hemp Factory a fully solar-powered food processing facility in northwestern Germany, has been added to the program for the Hemp Machines & Technology micro-summit May 24-25 at HempToday Center in Poland.
Only 8 accreditations remain for the summit, which will feature a wide range of technology applicable to both large and small hemp operations. Farming and decortication equipment, extraction systems, harvesting machines and other technology to serve the hemp industry will be explored at the two-day event. Stakeholders from Canada, Germany, Latvia, Italy, USA, South Africa, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal and Poland are already scheduled to be present.
Leading Euro producer
Located at Borken near the German-Dutch border, Hemp Factory is the biggest hemp food manufacturer in Central Europe. Development of the facility was guided by HempConsult GmbH, the Dusseldorf-based hemp industry advisory. HempConsult founder and CEO Daniel Kruse is also interim CEO at Hemp Factory.
Hemp Factory produces hemp foodstuffs for the processing industry, with 95% of output certified organic, and the remainder of conventional production. In addition to shelling hemp seeds, Hemp Factory’s services include the extraction of hemp oil by cold pressing, and the production of hemp flour, hemp protein and hemp dietary fiber.
Impressive customer base
Another production line turns out fodder, concentrated feed stuffs and fodder oil for the animal feed industry, and supplies livestock businesses with high-quality feed concentrates from by-products, such as oil, oil cake and coarse meal.
Hemp Factory’s customers include well-known food and baked goods producers as well as leading wholesalers. The factory turns out a variety of bulk hemp food products for Hempro International GmbH & Co. KG, which has been selling hemp foods for 16 years.
Speakers for the summit are: Rafael Dulon, CEO Hanf Farm GmbH, Germany; Valerio Zucchini, Valerio Zucchini Consulting & Trading, Italy; Robert Ziner, Founder & CEO, Canadian Industrial Hemp Corporation, Toronto, Canada; Kelly Knutson, CEO, Isolate Extraction Systems Inc., Colorado, USA; Heinrich Wieker, Henry’s Hemp Harvester, Germany; Marijn Roersch van der Hoogte, Hanffaser Uckermark, Germany; Kristaps Eglitis, Developer, The Micro Hemp Decorticator, Latvia; Ap Verhoef, Botanical Extraction Enterprises South Africa.
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.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species Cannabis sativa L. that grows to a height anywhere from 4-15 ft (1.2-4.5 m) and up to 0.75 in (2 cm) in diameter. The plant consists of an inner layer called the pith surrounded by woody core fiber, which is often referred as hurds. Bast fibers form the outer layer. The primary bast fiber is attached to the core fiber by pectin—a glue-like substance. The primary fibers are used for textiles, cordage, and fine paper products. The wood-like core fiber is used for animal bedding, garden mulch, fuel, and an assortment of building materials.
Due to the similar leaf shape, hemp is frequently confused with marijuana, another cannabis plant. The major difference is their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, the ingredient that produces the high when smoked. Marijuana can contain as much as 20% THC, compared to less than 1% for industrial hemp. Despite this difference, some countries are reluctant to legalize growing of hemp (especially the United States), since there is a fear this will make it more difficult to control the use of the drug. Most hemp varieties also have a hollow stalk that have a very high fiber content (35%), in contrast to marijuana varieties that usually have a solid stalk having low fiber content (15%).
Canada is one country that has legalized hemp, though with certain restrictions. The maximum allowable THC concentration is 0.3% and all hemp farmers are required to undergo a criminal-records check, as well as obtain a license from Health Canada. Despite these restrictions, hemp production has increased threefold in just a year, from 6, 175 acres (61.75 hectares) harvested in 1998 to nearly 20,000 acres (200 hectares) in 1999. Over 95% of the acres grown in 1999 in Canada were for hemp grain.
Farmers who grow hemp claim it is a great rotation crop and can be substituted for almost any harvest. It grows without requiring pesticides and is good at aerating the soil. On a per-acre basis, one estimate claims hemp nets farmers more income ($250-$300) than either corn or soybeans ($100-$200). A full crop of hemp only takes 90 days to grow, yielding four times more paper per acre, when compared over a similar 20 year period with redwood trees in the northwest United States. However, there are other varieties of trees that yield two to three times more than hemp.
Advocates of hemp claim that it can be used in 25,000 different products, from clothing to food to toiletries. Until the nineteenth century, hemp was used in 90% of ships’ canvas sails, rigging, and nets (and thus it was a required crop in the American colonies). Today, hemp fiber is being used as a replacement for fiberglass in automotive components and made into cloth for window dressings, shower curtains, and upholstery. China is the world’s largest producer of hemp fabric, whereas India produces the most hemp overall.
Other products made from hemp fiber include: insulation, particleboard, fiberboard, rope, twine, yarn, newsprint, cardboard, paper, horse stable bedding, and compost. Hemp bedding has been found superior to straw and other materials for horse stalls in reducing the smell of ammonia. Hemp seed is used to make methanol and heating oil, salad oil, pharmaceuticals, soaps, paint, and ink.
Currently 32 countries, including Canada, Great Britain, France, and China, allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. The current hemp market for sales and exports in North America is estimated at between $50-$ 100 million per year. Unites States imports of industrial woven fabrics made from hemp totaled $2.9 million in 1997. Import volume jumps to around $40 million when other products—such as paper, shampoo, and oil—are included. Textile uses of hemp represent 5% of hemp products produced in Canada.
Hemp was the first plant to be domestically cultivated around 8000 B.C. in Mesopotamia (present-day Turkey). Hemp was grown for fiber and food. It was recorded as being harvested in central Asia around 6500 B.C. Several centuries later, China started growing hemp as a crop and later used it in medicine. By 2700 B.C. , the Middle East, Africa, and most of Asia used hemp for fabric, rope, medicine, and food. Hemp was introduced to Europe 400 years later. The oldest surviving piece of paper, a 100% Chinese hemp parchment, was dated to A.D. 770.
From 1000 B.C. to the nineteenth century, hemp was the world’s largest agricultural crop, where it was also used for paper and lamp oil. During this period, several well-known books, including the Bible and Alice in Wonderland, were printed on hemp paper, and several famous artists painted on hemp canvas. The first crop in North America was planted by a French botanist in Nova Scotia in 1606. Thomas Jefferson drafted the United States Declaration of Independence on hemp paper and grew hemp him-self. Two centuries later, the United States and Canada put a stop cannabis cultivation in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act (this put a one dollar per ounce tax on any hemp manufacturers), which was later lifted during the World War II effort.
Global production of hemp has been declining since the 1960s, from over 300,000 short tons (272,160 t) of hemp fiber and tow in 1961 to 69,000 short tons (62,597t) in 1997. China accounts for 36% of this production and 73% of grain production. This has dropped from 80,000 to 37, 000 short tons (72,576 to 33,566 t) over the same period. Around 1994, there were 23 paper mills using hemp fiber, at an estimated world production of 12,000 short tons (10,886 t) per year. Most of these mills were located in China and India for producing printing and writing paper. Others produced specialty papers, including cigarette paper. The average hemp pulp and paper mill produces around 5,000 short tons (4,536 t) per year, compared to wood pulp mills at 250,000 short tons (226,800t) per year.
However, in the last decade, the number of companies trading in and manufacturing hemp products has increased dramatically. The North America market is still in its infancy since Canada just legalized hemp production and sale in 1998. Hemp cultivation tests in the United States began a year later though it is still illegal to grow it commercially.
Fiber processing uses few chemicals, if any at all. However, the fiber may be blended with other materials, such as synthetic fibers or resins as binders, depending on the final product being made. For paper making, water and chemicals (sodium hydroxide or sulfur compounds) are mixed with the fibers to remove the natural glue components.
The Manufacturing Process
Cultivation and harvesting
Hemp is an annual plant that grows from seed. It grows in a range of soils, but tends to grow best on land that produces high yields of corn. The soil must be well drained, rich in nitrogen, and non-acidic. Hemp prefers a mild climate, humid atmosphere, and a rainfall of at least 25-30 in (64-76 cm) per year. Soil temperatures must reach a minimum of 42-46°F (5.5-7.7°C) before seeds can be planted.
1 The crop is ready for harvesting high quality fiber when the plants begin to shed pollen, in mid-August for North America. Harvesting for seed occurs four to six weeks later. Fiber hemp is normally ready to harvest in 70-90 days after seeding. A special machine with rows of independent teeth and a chopper is used. To harvest hemp for textiles, specialized cutting equipment is required. Combines are used for harvesting An example of hemp and hemp fibers. grain, which are modified to avoid machine parts being tangled up with bast fiber.
2 Once the crop is cut, the stalks are allowed to rett (removal of the pectin [binder] by natural exposure to the environment) in the field for four to six weeks—depending on the weather—to loosen the fibers. While the stalks lay in the field, most of the nutrients extracted by the plant are returned to the soil as the leaves decompose. The stalks are turned several times using a special machine for even retting and then baled with existing hay harvesting equipment. Bales are stored in dry places, including sheds, barns, or other covered storage. The moisture content of hemp stalks should not exceed 15%. When planted for fiber, yields range from 2-6 short tons (1.8-5.4t) of dry stalks per acre, or from 3-5 short tons (2.7-4.5 t) of baled hemp stalks per acre in Canada.
3 Hemp seeds must be properly cleaned and dried before storing. Extraction of oil usually takes place using a mechanical expeller press under a nitrogen atmosphere, otherwise known as mechanical cold pressing. Protection from oxygen, light, and heat is critical for producing a tasty oil with an acceptable shelf-life. Solvent extraction methods are also emerging for removing oil since they achieve higher yields. Such methods use hexan, liquid carbon dioxide, or ethanol as the solvent. Refining and deodorizing steps may be required for cosmetics manufacturers.
4 A dehulling step, which removes the crunchy skin from the seed using a crushing machine, may be required. Modifications to existing equipment may be required to adequately clean the seeds of hull residues.
5 To separate the woody core from the bast fiber, a sequence of rollers (breakers) or a hammermill are used. The bast fiber is then cleaned and carded to the desired core content and fineness, sometimes followed by cutting to size and baling. After cleaning and carding, secondary steps are often required. These include matting for the production of non-woven mats and fleeces, pulping (the breakdown of fiber bundles by chemical and physical methods to produce fibers for paper making), and steam explosion, a chemical removal of the natural binders to produce a weavable fiber. Complete processing lines for fiber hemp have outputs ranging from 2-8 short tons/hour (1.8-7.2 t/hr).
6 The primary fiber is pressed into a highly compressed bale, similar to other fibers like cotton, wool, and polyester. Other products, such as horse bedding, are packaged in a compressed bale.
7 Bast fibers are usually used in paper, which are put into a spherical tank called a digester with water and chemicals. This mixture is heated for up to eight hours at elevated temperature and pressure until all fibers are separated from each other. Washing with excess water removes the chemicals and the extracted binding components (pectin). The clean fibers are then fed into a machine called a Hollander beater, which consists of a large tub equipped with a wheel revolving around a horizontal axis. This beating step, which lasts for up to 12 hours, cuts the fibers to the desired length and produces the required surface roughness for proper bonding. Bleaching chemicals are sometimes added during this step or to separate tanks with the fibers. The bleached pulp is then pumped to the paper machine or pressed to a dryness suitable for transportation to a paper mill at another location.
Hemp fibers are tested for tensile strength, fineness (fiber diameter), and the color is recorded. Moisture content is recorded during every stage of the growing and production process. The THC content of the plant is also contiguously tested to make sure that the level does not exceed the 0.3% mark. Research is still being conducted on the effects that hemp would have on the industry. Set standards are constantly being altered and changed.
The harvested hemp not used is burned. During fiber processing, the core fiber is saved and usually used to make paper, horse bedding, or construction materials. Most hemp producers recycle the core fiber by removing dust, then baling and packaging. The dust can be pressed into pellets used for fuel. The dirt and small chips of core are also used as a high nutrient soil additive.
Where it is legal, the hemp industry has been growing at an annual growth rate of 20%. Other potential uses are being developed. For instance, hemp meal has demonstrated it can be used as a food ingredient for aquiculture farms, specifically freshwater fish and shrimp. Even hemp beer has entered the Canadian market, though it is expected to remain a small part of beer sales. Composite materials for the building industry are also being investigated.
Using hemp as a source of food may become the largest application, since hemp seeds have much nutritional value. The seed contains essential fatty acids, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B, C, and E. Hemp seed can be made into oil or flour and can also be eaten whole, since it tastes similar to pine nuts or sunflower seeds.
The outlook for hemp in the United States is uncertain since it is still illegal to grow it. There are 10 states that passed legislation in 1998 to allow growing hemp for research purposes—Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Virginia—and a number of other states are considering it. However, federal law still prohibits growing industrial hemp. The Drug Enforcement Agency will have to change its mind before any market can be developed in the United States. Once that happens, hemp could become a billion dollar crop if there is enough investment and interest, prices are competitive, and high quality products can be made. Processing technology also needs to be upgraded for higher value-added products.
From cultivation to extraction, the hemp industry requires highly specialized technology to flourish.
AMANDA LUKETAAmanda Luketa is a freelance technical writer and former cannabis industry mechanical engineer. She believes strongly in helping others, federal legalization, and the power of curiosity. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing and yoga.
With the passing of the Farm Bill, the hemp industry has seen a long-awaited boom in production and revenue. There are many uses for hemp, from textiles to products containing only CBD, with some companies even using hemp as a biomass energy source. The equipment for producing hemp products is complex and requires technology from various disciplines. Take a look at some of the specialized processing and farming equipment used within the hemp industry.
HEMP FARMING EQUIPMENT
There are many ways to grow hemp, with some methods being more sophisticated than others. Hemp farming requires substantial agricultural knowledge and research, as the exact equipment used will depend on the precise growing methodology.
Another critical factor in which equipment a farmer chooses is whether or not the hemp will be used for textiles or for CBD oil. If used for textiles, hemp can be planted at a much higher density – up to 400,000 plants per square acres – but if CBD production is the goal, the density drops substantially to a maximum of around 1,600 plants per acre.
This is because textile hemp is grown similarly to wheat, with tall stalks that are then used for industrial applications. CBD hemp, on the other hand, is cultivated to be small and leafy, staying lower to the ground, with the plant’s flowers used for oil production.
Here is some of the equipment involved in the hemp farming process:
A seed drill streamlines the process of sowing hemp seeds and can be used to plant many acres of the crop efficiently.
If not starting from seeds, a transplanter can be used to move a substantial quantity of early hemp plants into the field, placing them with the appropriate spacing and position.
Also used for harvesting wheat, a combine is used to cut and collect the hemp stalks and grain material. This equipment is typically used when harvesting textile-based hemp crops, as it is a rough process that would compromise the structure of the plant when used for CBD production.
CBD Hemp Harvester
Explicitly designed to harvest hemp used for CBD oil production, this harvester works differently than the combine. The CBD hemp harvester carefully cuts each hemp plant and loads it onto a trailer, without damaging the plant’s structure. A typical harvester processes up to 5 acres of CBD hemp per day, and can also be used for cannabis crops.
HEMP PROCESSING EQUIPMENT
The bulk of the processing requirements for hemp consist of decortication. Hemp decortication is the process of separating the hemp fiber from the plant stalk. Hemp is also processed into CBD oil by companies in the hemp extraction space. Take a look at the cutting-edge technology designed for hemp processing:
Continuous Countercurrent Reactor for Decortication
The Continuous Countercurrent Reactor (CCR), developed by PureHemp Technology out of Fort Lupton, CO, is designed to streamline the decortication process. The reactor works by passing hemp stalks through the machine in the opposite direction as a liquid reagent, to efficiently separate the hemp into pulp and sugar co-products.
Developed by CannaSystems, a Canada-based company serving the industrial hemp industry, the R-2 decorticator is designed to be a semi-portable turnkey solution for separating hemp. The unit is a hydraulic, diesel-powered system, and can process up to five tons of hemp per hour.
Applications for these products range from hemp-based kitty litter to hemp skin care products and potting mixes.
Precision KPD Series for Extraction
Designed to operate on an industrial scale, the Precision KPD extraction system can process over 25,000 pounds of hemp per day for manufacture into CBD oil. Features include a continuous feed system and compatibility with ethanol, heptane, or hexane as an extraction solvent.
GROWING HEMP IS A SCIENCE
Those considering entering the exciting space of hemp cultivation and processing must do thorough research before beginning an operation. Hemp is unique in that it draws from both conventional agricultural methods, as well as precise science from the cannabis industry. Growing hemp for CBD oil production may prove more of a challenge than for textiles, though both can provide a rewarding opportunity for the new or experienced farmer.
The basics: Hemp can provide two types of fuel. 1. Hemp biodiesel – made from the oil of the (pressed) hemp seed. 2. Hemp ethanol/methanol – made from the fermented stalk.
To clarify further, ethanol is made from such things as grains, sugars, starches, waste paper and forest products, and methanol is made from woody/pulp matter. Using processes such as gasification, acid hydrolysis and enzymes, hemp can be used to make both ethanol and methanol.
In this day of oil wars, peak oil (and the accompanying soaring prices), climate change and oil spills such as the one in the gulf by BP, it’s more important than ever to promote sustainable alternatives such as hemp ethanol. Hemp turns out to be the most cost-efficient and valuable of all the fuel crops we could grow on a scale that could fuel the world.
And as it turns out, the whole reason for hemp prohibition – and alcohol prohibition – may have been a fuel the realization that OIL production is threatened by any competing fuel source, especially one that requires no modifications to your car!
What is Hemp Biodiesel? Hemp biodiesel is the name for a variety of ester based oxygenated fuels made from hemp oil. The concept of using vegetable oil as an engine fuel dates back to 1895 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. Diesel demonstrated his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 using peanut oil as fuel. Hemp biodiesel come from the pressing of the hemp seeds to extract the oil. Through a process explained here , hemp biodiesel can be made.
Hemp biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as hemp. With over 30 million successful U.S. road miles hemp biodiesel could be the answer to our cry for renewable fuel sources. Learning more about renewable fuels does not mean we should not cut back on consumption but does help address the environmental affects of our choices. There is more to hemp as a renewable fuel source than you know
Why Hemp Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that runs in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine.
It can be stored anywhere that petroleum diesel fuel is stored. Biodiesel is safe to handle and transport because it is as biodegradable as sugar, 10 times less toxic than table salt, and has a high flashpoint of about 300 F compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which has a flash point of 125 F.
Biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as hemp.
Biodiesel is a proven fuel with over 30 million successful US road miles, and over 20 years of use in Europe.
When burned in a diesel engine, biodiesel replaces the exhaust odor of petroleum diesel with the pleasant smell of hemp, popcorn or french fries.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel in the US to complete EPA Tier I Health Effects Testing under section 211(b) of the Clean Air Act, which provide the most thorough inventory of environmental and human health effects attributes that current technology will allow.
Biodiesel is 11% oxygen by weight and contains no sulfur.
The use of biodiesel can extend the life of diesel engines because it is more lubricating than petroleum diesel fuel, while fuel consumption, auto ignition, power output, and engine torque are relatively unaffected by biodiesel.
The Congressional Budget Office, Department of Defense, US Department of Agriculture, and others have determined that biodiesel is the low cost alternative fuel option for fleets to meet requirements of the Energy Policy Act.