For decades, federal law indiscriminately outlawed cannabis — including low-THC industrial hemp. In 2018 however, the Senate passed the Farm Bill. This bill both legalized hemp production and gave legal protections to hemp farmers. It was a crucial, monumental win for the hemp industry.
Since the Farm Bill, the hemp industry has continued to grow significantly over the last few years. From its place in everything from textiles to toilet paper, industrial hemp has become a prominent construction and manufacturing material.
Despite its usefulness, hemp is still frequently surrounded by confusion — especially with regard to the difference between recreational marijuana and industrial hemp.
Past the confusion, however, lies the undeniable truth: industrial hemp has massive potential. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Why Industrial Hemp & Why Now?
Industrial hemp is still a budding agricultural industry, but it has great potential to become a core product in the industries of construction, manufacturing, and even food.
Hemp is also remarkably sustainable. Unlike other crops, hemp requires little water and no pesticides to produce a bountiful harvest. Just one acre of hemp produces enough pulp to replace four acres of trees! This means that growing industrial hemp is an agricultural endeavor with a minimal environmental impact.
The benefits of hemp aren’t isolated to the environment: hemp has further proven itself to be a robust construction material. With more tensile and compressive strength than steel, hemp has secured its place as one of the strongest building materials around.
However, one question still remains unanswered: Why now? Why enter the hemp market right now — isn’t the world still in a tailspin following the pandemic?
Industrial Hemp in Construction
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction costs have skyrocketed. Industrial hemp offers a strong, sustainable, low-cost alternative to many construction materials.
Traditionally, American construction projects are heavily reliant on imported materials. In fact, 40% of the typical American home is made of imported materials. Hemp, though, can be grown domestically and dramatically reduce transportation costs.
This reduced transportation cost allows growers to bring a stronger and more sustainable product to market for less. With the construction market at a record high (and in need of a lower-cost alternative), now is the time to bring industrial hemp into the limelight.
Potential Pitfalls to Avoid
When breaking into the hemp industry, it’s crucial to avoid pitfalls that will needlessly cost more time and money. The first of these pitfalls is genetics. Understanding the characteristics of a certain hemp strain will allow you to figure out what it can be used for.
For example, some strains have a strong, rigid construction while others tend to be softer. If you’re producing toilet paper, you’d probably want to avoid any rigid, uncomfortable hemp. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t want to use a soft, tissue-like hemp in a large construction project.
Take the time to understand the genetics of the plant, and make sure those genetics work with the products you want to bring to market.
The second pitfall comes when looking for a manufacturer. It’s tough to find one willing to work with hemp and even tougher to find one with a successful track record of bringing hemp products to market.
Finding an experienced manufacturer is crucial. Although an inexperienced manufacturer may be more willing to work with you, they’ll perform most of the R&D on your dime. They’ll be learning on your money rather than on theirs.
Working with an experienced consultant — like our team at Higher Yields — can help you to secure a manufacturer who’s willing to work with hemp and has a history of successfully bringing hemp products to market.
Cutting-Edge Innovations with Industrial Hemp
Construction may be a leading factor in the growth of the hemp market, but it’s by no means the only one. New technological innovation has paired with a renewed interest in industrial hemp to spark countless cutting-edge innovations.
From hemp toilet paper to hempcrete, these are a few of the coolest hemp-based technologies:
- Toilet paper made from hemp is both soft and strong — while going easy on the environment.
- Hemp biofuel is far more sustainable than fossil fuels, and it even has a lower carbon footprint than corn-based fuels.
- Supercapacitors and batteries that use hemp nanosheets are infinitely cheaper and more efficient than traditional alternatives.
- Hemp-based plastics offer just as much durability and versatility as traditional plastics but are more sustainable and completely biodegradable.
- Hempcrete offers a strong, naturally-insulated building material that allows moisture to evaporate and hinders mold growth.
As the innovative uses for industrial hemp continue to grow, so too will the hemp industry (making right now one of the best times to get into the industry). Further, the continued support of hemp companies for innovation will lead to more advanced technologies that further both the industry and global sustainability.
Here at Higher Yields Consulting, we’re a think tank that supports industrial hemp research and advocacy. Book a consultation today and we can lead the way together!