We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Hemp Fiber Revolution
The forgotten fact is that hemp
and linen produce long fibers.Here we
discover that it is now practical to also remove the lignin.This should make the fibers soft. So we now
have natural sources of long soft and strong natural fibers.
The bottom line is that both
linen and hemp fiber will be rushing back into the market.This report is on the tip of the process.
In the meantime, Canadian
agriculture is leading the way and we will see many products based on hemp flow
into the market.
I do not know how the new fibers
actually feel or how strong the fabrics will be, but we can assume they match
the best cottons in terms of strength at least.Thus I would suspect that tradition will not protect markets for the
range of cotton we have had for two centuries.
Both flax and hemp are capable of
flooding the market with natural fibers.
The ’snicker factor’ aside, hemp is serious business
Producers of industrial hemp are poised to meet growing demand
for the straitlaced and useful cousin of the mind-altering weed
RITA TRICHUR Hemp is fast becoming a staple of daytime TV as Oprah, Dr.
Oz and others extol the health virtues of hemp oil, protein powders and pasta.
At the same time, industrial interests tout it as a potential base for products
ranging from textiles to car parts. As a result, demand is surging in the United States, Germany
But American farmers are prohibited from growing hemp. That leaves farmers in Canada – where it’s been a legal crop since 1998
– free to tap the growing U.S.
interest in hemp-based products.
First, though, they must navigate the shifting sands of public opinion
– or, as one Alberta
report called it, “the snicker factor.”
According to an Alberta Agriculture Department report on industrial
hemp production in Canada,
the plant’s cultivation evokes chuckles “largely because of its hippy-dippy
image and close association with marijuana, its consciousness-altering cousin.”
Nevertheless, this is serious stuff. The North American market for
industrial hemp – which has only a minuscule amount of the chemical that gives
marijuana its punch – is booming.
For centuries, hemp had been ubiquitous in global commerce – from
paper making to the rope used on sailing vessels – until synthetic fibres
usurped its naval role and global anti-drug sentiment put paid to the rest.
Now the market, while still small, is growing by about 10 per cent a
year, with annual sales between $350-million and $400-million, according to
Mike Fata, co-founder and chief executive officer of Winnipeg-based Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils, believes Canada’s
hemp industry has a golden opportunity – especially south of the border.
Hemp-based foods, he notes, are rich sources of protein and essential fatty
acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6.
“The great thing about marketing hemp is that hemp is in everyone’s
psyche – whether they think that hemp is marijuana or they think that hemp is
clothing or rope or they already know that hemp is a food product . . .” Mr.
Fata said. “It is easy when you have their attention to educate them about what
hemp really is and all the great things that it can offer.”
Canadian hemp exports have increased by 500 per cent over the past four
years. Even so, total exports were worth just $10.38-million in 2010.
The industry’s goal is to generate more than $100-million for the
Canadian economy by 2015, partly by boosting production from 10,855 hectares to
40,000 hectares over that time.
Eager to capitalize on that burgeoning potential, the federal
government recently boosted its investment in the industry. In December, 2010,
Agriculture Canada announced
an investment of more than $728,000 to help the industry boost production
capacity and increase exports to the United States. The amount was split
among three funding streams – including some repayable contributions. Ottawa is also handing out
more licences to grow the value-added crop and has increased the number of
approved varieties for the 2011 growing season.
Canada’s hemp industry, though, is also grappling with some serious
growing pains after years of boom-and-bust production. The high Canadian dollar
is eroding the value of exports, and celebrity endorsements notwithstanding,
hemp has yet to fully shake its “ditch weed” image with U.S. consumers and regulators.
Toward that end, Canadian hemp food products have yet to overcome a key
regulatory hurdle with the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration by achieving “GRAS” status, an acronym for
Generally Recognized As Safe.
Without that certification, Canadian companies are prevented from
selling hemp to big multinationals like General Mills and Kellogg’s, and
another three years’ worth of costly study is required before the Canadian
industry can even apply, says the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance.
Mr. Fata of Manitoba
Harvest says he recognizes those obstacles but is optimistic about the
industry’s long-term potential.
Manitoba Harvest is one of the world’s largest hemp
food manufacturers. Its sales growth has averaged about 50 per cent a year
since 1998. It currently makes 68 per cent of its sales in the United States, 30 per cent in Canada and 2 per cent in Europe and Asia.
In addition to health food stores, it is penetrating mainstream grocery
chains in the United States
and collaborating with Maple Leaf Foods Inc. on hemp-based research and
development in Canada.
Manitoba Harvest has provided product and
technical support to Maple Leaf’s majority-owned subsidiary Canada Bread as it experiments with
hemp bakery products, Mr. Fata said.
While hemp foods continue to represent the bulk of the Canadian
industry’s exports, there is also a growing appetite for hemp fibre for
industrial uses. German auto maker Mercedes-Benz, for instance, has been using
natural fibre such as hemp, flax, sisal and abaca for many years in various
With the price of cotton still high, albeit down from its peak, garment
makers are also eyeing hemp as a substitute textile.
Vancouver-based Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc., established in
1998 as Hemptown Clothing Inc., is developing alternative fibres made out of
flax and hemp. Its Crailar technology uses an enzyme process to remove
lignin, the natural glue that binds fibres like flax and hemp. Doing so gives
those fibres a smoother texture and allows them to be processed in new blended
fabrics that can result in savings for clothing makers because they require
less cotton and are less prone to shrinkage.
Earlier this year, Naturally Advanced signed purchasing and development
agreements for its Crailar flax fibre product with apparel giants Hanes and
Levi Strauss & Co., along with pulp-and-paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific
Flax is cheaper for Naturally Advanced to process than hemp partly
because it contains less lignin and also because it can be grown in the United States,
where both its pilot facility and major partners are based.
“We’re not giving up on hemp. Hemp is just going to follow in or feed
in after we lead off with flax,” CEO Ken Barker said.
Moreover, the company is also fielding enquires about its hemp fibre
product from a range of other industries, including mattress makers and the
Still, Mr. Barker recognizes that there remains a marketing challenge
for hemp: “That’s just the reality of the U.S. consumer.”\
- Possible uses include food, clothing, rope, cosmetics, building
products, car parts
- Industrial hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis plant
family, but hemp contains only tiny amounts of the drug delta-9
- Growing both marijuana and hemp became illegal in Canada in
1938. The ban on commercial hemp production was lifted 1998.
- As of June 21, 2011, Health Canada issued 296 licences to grow
industrial hemp for the 2011 growing season. That’s up from 290 in 2010 and 184
in 2009. (Licences must be renewed each year.)
- There are 38 approved varieties of hemp for 2011, up from 34 in 2010
and 29 in 2009.
- A total of 3.98 million kilograms of hemp products worth
$10.38-million were exported in 2010, up from 1.82 million kilograms worth
$8.09-million in 2009.
Sources: Agriculture and Agri-FoodCanada, Health Canada,
Manitoba Agriculture, Statscan, Canadian Hemp