Stephanie Bishop, Hemp Inc. – Canadian Farmers have been growing Hemp since 1606. Hemp was one of the first crops brought to Nova Scotia by Samuel De Champlain’s botanist, Louis Hebert. Throughout the centuries Canada has oftentimes supplied the US Navy with Hemp for use in sails, uniforms and rope. The most noted periods were from 1840 – 1860 and during WWII.
The Hemp Crop was banned by the Canadian Government in 1938 under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act. Canada reinforced their stance on the issue internationally in 1961 with their participation in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. These laws were repealed in 1998 with the enactment of the Health Canada Bill C8 opening the market for Canadian Farmers to once again grow Hemp.
Restoring Hemp to Canadian farmlands was not an easy process. It took years of seed trials before Canada achieved the successful harvest of a product able to compete in the International hemp marketplace. Canada had initially obtained hempseed from Poland and France. Today, Canadian farmers produce many strains of Hemp including Finola, Fasamo, Crag, USO 13 and USO 31. Canada’s Hemp crop is grown mainly for human consumption, the fiber being a eak by-product either discarded or sold to cover some of the costs of growing. Canadian Farmers are harvesting the 2012 crops now, and preparing the Hemp for further processing.
Once farmers cut the hemp, it is sent for further processing which begins with removing the seeds from the plant matter. The remaining straw is baled for further production. Seeds are cleaned, de-hulled and packaged for distribution. Hemp Seeds designated for making oils are cleaned, cold pressed for extraction and refined from crude oil into a consumable product used for cooking. The residuals make a “hemp cake” used as livestock feed or further processed for protein powders.
Processing Hemp fiber has always been a challenge. Before the pre modern introduction of the Decorticator, the machine used to strip the outer layers of the stock away from the shives or hurds located in the interior layers, farmers would have to cut the stalks open and remove the insides by hand, a lengthy and costly way of processing hemp fibers. Decorticators have long been on the market, however many countries still use the field and hand retting method employing local workers during harvest.
Hemp fibers are separated into three parts, each having a myriad of known uses in the World today. The outside baste fiber is used in the automotive industry as body composite material and to produce textiles, bio-plastics and paper pulp. The inside core, often referred to as hurds or shives, is used predominately in the Green Building industry with side markets in furniture, insulation and animal bedding. The residual results after processing is pelletized for use as a carbon negative alternative in wood burning stoves or to create bio-fuels.
The possibilities for hemp products seem endless, however farmers face challenges when attempting to create sustainable end user markets and identify manufacturers for purchasing raw hemp fibers for further production. Currently, the United States is the largest importer of Hemp products, bringing in more than $8.5 million in 2010 with the United Kingdom marginally coming in as the second healthiest market for Canadian Farmers. 2010 market reports show Canada’s hemp products in India, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Italy and New Zealand.
Alberta is leading the country in Hemp production with more than 6,343 hectares (English conversion here) accounting for nearly 41% of Canada’s hemp industry. In a report prepared by Serecon Management Consulting called “Alberta Cost of Production and Market Assessment” the market appears healthy, but potentially threatened by the lack of manufacturers purchasing hemp from farmers and unsteady end user markets.
Many new products will be coming out of Canada in 2013 including the Hemp car “Kestral” and many new green building products. The market assessment report shows advancements in manufacturing textiles and carpets, energy pellets, animal bedding, panel boards for building, reinforced bio-plastic products for biodegradable plastic bags and more.
Students at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology are currently developing a hemp panel board product for use in green building, speaker panels and furniture for a Calgary based manufacturing company called Bio-Struct. Bio-Struct President Andrew Mackie told the CBC “We can use it to create a very high-performance structure, which means a very energy-efficient structure as well as high performance in terms of how it deals with moisture and retains heat or cool in the summer.”
The report concludes the health of the Canadian Hemp Markets depends on continued investor support for businesses looking to manufacture hemp products and in research and development of processing equipment as well as new product development.
Hemp Farmers in Alberta celebrate the Harvest in many ways; planning events celebrating the deep history of hemp in Canada while featuring discussion panels for future plans for the Hemp plant in the region. One such event happened September 9th at the Harvest of the Past and Taste of Heritage Food Fest hosted by Friends of the Ukranian Village Society. Discussions included turning agricultural crops into cars and cultivation of hemp on the prairie for food and fiber.
Americans will be celebrating Canada’s successful harvest in 2012 when food products reach markets. Hemp offers healthy food choices and stronger communities. As more consumers choose hemp products over petroleum based ones, supply chain relationships will strengthen, bringing down retail costs.