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Industrial Hemp- An Environmental & Economic Powerhouse

Hempco LogoHempco Admin
4 Mins. Read

There are very few agricultural products that have made a significant increase in productivity of up to 455% since 2018. One at the top of this list is industrial hemp which has recorded massive gains since it became legal across the country.

Researchers predict the hemp industry will continue to grow as more states continue to benefit from its use, creating more job opportunities for hemp farmers and the industry's overall growth. 

A driving force behind the growth in the Australian Industrial Hemp industry is the AIHA (Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance), a not-for-profit Association.

The purpose of the Alliance is to represent businesses and organisations involved in industrial hemp and associated products at a national level, in order to develop and grow the Australian industry.

Head over to their website for some great resources on the industry.

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What is industrial hemp? 

Industrial hemp is a plant that belongs to the Cannabis sativa species, known for its use in the provision of industrial and consumer products. Hemp is cultivated in over 30 countries and is an essential source of raw material for many primary industries including food, agriculture & construction.

Hemp vs. Marijuana 

Many people tend to confuse industrial hemp and "marijuana" based on their visual similarities (and years of conditioning from propaganda campaigns). By distinction, industrial hemp contains more fibre and is very low in active tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana and other cannabis varieties.

Marijuana, on the other hand, contains up to 15% to 40% of tetrahydrocannabinol, which makes it a highly intoxicating substance. Industrial hemp also has a higher percentage of CBD, making it a better alternative for industrial uses than marijuana.

Hemp plants grow typically in close proximity to each other- as little as 4 inches apart, whereas marijuana plants require up to six feet from each other for proper growth. The growth rate of these two also differs, considering marijuana takes about 60 to 90 days to grow, while hemp requires up to 108 to 12o days to grow. 

Find out all about the differences in our original blog here.

hemp cannabis differnces blog

Economic benefits of industrial hemp

Industrial hemp provides the sustainability and durability that make it stands out from its competitors. Almost every part of the hemp- its fibres, oils, leaves, and seeds provide its own economic benefits to man, some of which include the following: 

  1. Clothing and textile – industrial hemp is more cost-efficient and approximately 10 times more efficient than cotton. In addition, cotton growth will require the use of pesticides, which also has its side effects on the environment. Other benefits of hemp fibres include the production of nets, carpets, industrial textiles, shoes, etc. 
  2. Construction- hemp-based material makes a better alternative to wood as it is lighter, stronger, and more durable. 
  3. Protein and food supplement- Hemp oil is rich in protein and has high essential fatty acid content with very low saturated fats compared to soy products. Hemp oil can be used to make a variety of food and products. It is also less expensive to extract its protein than soybeans. 
  4. Low-cost fuel- non-renewable energy sources can be substituted with renewable sources like hemp that could be beneficial to man both environmentally and economically. 
  5. Larger profits for the hemp industry in the coming years- The US CBD market grew to $202 million in 2017 and is projected to become a billion-dollar market in the future. CBD is known for its therapeutic and health benefits for humans and animals. Hemp plants have fast growth and regenerative biology, which makes them effective in keeping up with the ever-increasing demand in the industry.  We can't wait to see it's potential unlocked in Australia
  6. Great productivity/opportunity for small farmers- hemp can be cultivated in most states (more details here), and the dense nature of its growth makes farmers produce more hemp per acre of farmland. It also saves the cost of production for farmers as there is little or no space for weed growth, reducing the effort and resources to get rid of weeds. In addition, hemp farming is an excellent alternative for farmers who want to move away from tobacco farming, especially in states that depend more on agriculture. 

Hemp production 

Hemp grows best in well-drained soil with a pH in the range of 6.0 to 7.0. Hemp will hardly grow on clay soil or soils with high moisture content, given its high sensitivity to crusting and compaction.

Hemp is regarded as a short-day plant; maturity starts when the day length is below 12 hours of sunlight. 

Hemp seed is ready for harvest when the seeds begin to break, though the plants remain green. At this stage, 70% of the seeds are set for harvesting, and their moisture content is about 25%. Delayed harvest may result in grain losses due to grain quality, bird damage, or excessive shattering of seeds. 

Hemp fibre is typically harvested when the plants are anywhere between early bloom and seed set. After the cutting, a process known as retting is used to break the bonds between the outer long fibres and the inner long fibres.

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The most common retting method involves leaving the crop to dry up in the fields for as long as five weeks for field decomposition. The dried crops are then bundled into a storage facility where they are further processed into finished products.

Final Considerations 

Industrial hemp is a game-changer that has the potential to shape the future of agriculture in generations to come. The plant also plays a vital role on the global stage in helping impoverished communities both in economic and nutritional areas.

However, it is important that any farmer who will grow hemp must have the legal approval of the law. Industrial hemp producers should be able to identify the sales channel available for their products before they start production and ensure they have all the required permits in accordance with the law.