BioFuel


The move could see pollution drop down considerably by using Hemp biomass to create plastic.

November 24, 2009 – Up until now, scientists have always considered that the only possible way of producing plastic, one of the main materials in our civilization, is through modifying and altering fossil fuels, primarily oil. But now, a team of South Korean scientists has managed to produce the compound for the first time without using any of these polluting fuels. Rather than extracting it from chemicals, they have managed to bioengineer it, proving once and for all that changes can be made to our way of life through innovation.

The achievement does make one wonder how it is that it was not made in one of the countries where the oil companies ruled, such as the United States or Canada. In short, there is no interest in such products in these nations, where the extent of the influence that oil corporations have on governments is difficult to quantify.

The South Korean accomplishment also points at the fact that the oil industry is indeed dispensable. Previous studies, done elsewhere, also demonstrated that plastic-like compounds, even more efficient than the actual plastics, could be made of hemp as well.

“The polyesters and other polymers we use everyday are mostly derived from fossil oils made through the refinery or chemical process. The idea of producing polymers from renewable biomass has attracted much attention due to the increasing concerns of environmental problems and the limited nature of fossil resources. PLA is considered a good alternative to petroleum based plastics as it is both biodegradable and has a low toxicity to humans,” Professor Sang Yup Lee, the leader of the new study, explains. The research was done by the KAIST University and the Korean chemical company LG Chem.

Until now, the PLA compound has only been produced via an intricate fermentation and polymerization process, but, currently, the team believes that it may have discovered a cheaper, just-as-effective method of synthesizing it. Now, via the use of metabolically engineered strains of E.coli bacteria, the product can be obtained from a simple, direct fermentation process. “By developing a strategy which combines metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering, we’ve developed an efficient bio-based one-step production process for PLA and its copolymers. This means that a developed E. coli strain is now capable of efficiently producing unnatural polymers, through a one-step fermentation process,” Lee adds.

“Global warming and other environmental problems are urging us to develop sustainable processes based on renewable resources. This new strategy should be generally useful for developing other engineered organisms capable of producing various unnatural polymers by direct fermentation from renewable resources,” the expert concludes. Source.

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November 17, 2009 – Investing adequately in agriculture can lead to permanent structural transformation and hunger alleviation in Africa. Not only is the food system a major employer of the poor, but it also generates the capital and demand for expansion in non-agricultural sectors.

Consider the large scale growing of Hemp. The US Hemp food sales are experiencing an annual growth rate of 50% according to the US industry research group SPINS. China whose trade GDP quadrupled in 20 years exports Hemp that is grown on its 800,000 acres. Think of how much more Africa could grow.

Hemp is a crop that is multi-beneficial, and a strong step to creating productive, healthy and even prosperous conditions in Africa. Hemp has up to 25 000 potential uses. It is a high plant protein source and can be pressed into nutritious oil essential for our immune system and clearing the arteries of cholesterol and plaque.The oil from hemp seed can be sprouted (Malted) or ground and baked into cake, bread, and casseroles.

Hemp is an environmentally sustainable, economically viable “ancient wonder crop”. Farmers around the world grow it without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Hemp is earth’s number-one biomass resource. Biomass can be converted to methane, methanol, or Gasoline at a cost comparable to petroleum. It can produce 10 times more methanol than corn. The use of hemp fuel does not contribute to global Warming.

One acre of hemp can produce as much usable fiber as four acres of trees or two acres of cotton. Trees may take several years to grow, while hemp can be cultivated in as little as 100 Days and can yield much more paper than tree.

Until 1883, from 75-90% of all paper in the world was made with cannabis hemp fiber. Hemp paper is longer lasting than wood pulp, stronger, acid-free, and chlorine free.

Hemp can as well be a textile solution for Africa as it is softer, warmer, more absorbent and has three times the tensile strength. About 70-90% of all rope, twine, and Cordage was made from hemp until 1937. Hemp withstands heat, mildew, insects, and is not damaged by light. Oil paintings on Hemp and/or flax canvas have stayed in fine condition. Hemp fiber has strong, rot resistant carpeting potential eliminating the allergic reactions associated with new synthetic carpeting.

An acre of full Grown hemp plants can sustainably provide from four to 50 or even 100 times the cellulose found in cornstalks, or sugar cane (the planet’s next highest annual cellulose plants). One acre of hemp produces as much cellulose fiber pulp as 4.1 acres of trees, making hemp a perfect material to replace trees, for pressed board, particle board, and concrete construction molds.

Heating and compressing plant fibers can create practical, inexpensive, fire-resistant construction materials with excellent thermal and sound insulating Qualities. These strong plant fiber materials could replace dry wall and wood paneling.

William B. Coned of Condi’s Redwood Lumber,Inc., in conjunction with Washington State University (1991-1993) demonstrated the superior strength, flexibility, and economy of hemp composite. Archeologists have found a bridge in the South of France from the Merovingian period (500-751 A.D.) built with this process.

Hemp is a wonder plant that Africa should consider growing as a strategy to create wealth for the continent.

Please also see:
Can Hemp Products Save the World?
Canada – Hemp Bringing Highs to Farmers’ Lows

MURRAY, KY (wkms) – Not so many years ago in the United States, the hemp plant was 3221039widely grown for its fiber and seed. But hemp has fallen out of favor in the United States, partly due to its close relation to marijuana. Cultivating either is illegal, although that may change. Kentucky, once one of the leading hemp producers in the nations, is looking to revive the industry.

Shirts, bags, jewelry, and twine are among the hemp merchandise that Murray retail store owner Valerie Hancock sells. “I don’t pick things because they’re hemp, but I know that I have customers that come in who look specifically for hemp items or items that do contain hemp.”

Hancock says the hemp for her products is cultivated and refined overseas, in countries like Turkey and Tibet. However, legislation headed for the 2010 Kentucky General Assembly would allow Hancock to buy her hemp from regional farmers. Senator Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville is sponsoring a measure to legalize industrial hemp. Pendleton has backed the bill before, but he says this time is different.

“Now that the federal government is saying we’re going to give it back to the states; if they want to legalize it and be able to grow it, that’s up to them.’ And that’s why I got excited about it, and I think honestly that’s the reason you’re seeing this thing’s catching on now.”

Pendleton expects the Obama administration to formally announce in November or December that it will not interfere with a state’s desire to legalize hemp. Pendleton believes Kentucky would greatly benefit from hemp production. Advocates for the plant point to its many uses over 25,000 to date according to information from to the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Those uses include cosmetics, car door panels, sun tan lotion and pressboard. As the Commonwealth focuses on a renewable energy plan, Pendleton says he’s become interested in hemp’s use as a bio-fuel.

“You make more bio-diesel or ethanol from an acre of hemp than you can from an acre of corn.”

In the past, Pendleton says he’s heard outcry from law enforcement at the proposition of legalizing hemp, but not so this time.

“But I think they’re understanding more. Now the industrial hemp doesn’t have the THC that the smoking kind has.”

Hemp leaves contain less than one percent of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, while marijuana leaves contain three to twenty percent THC. But not so fast, says Kentucky State Police spokesman Trooper John Hawkins. He says the KSP still very much opposes industrial hemp. Hawkins says it and marijuana are the same species, cannabis sativa.

“It’s very difficult for us to determine by sight which one is hemp and which one is marijuana. So from an eradication standpoint it would make our job much more difficult.”

Also Hawkins says the results of cross pollination between hemp and marijuana aren’t known.

“You may get a lower THC content in marijuana, but you also may get a higher content with the hemp plant.”

Senator Pendleton says this wouldn’t be an issue because illegal drug growers wouldn’t want to take the risk of diluting their crop. According to hemp farmers, their plant is usually harvested before the buds that contain THC develop. Farmers also plant hemp close together, further distinguishing it from marijuana, where plots are spread out.

Even though the organization opposes industrial hemp, Hawkins says the KSP won’t move to block the measure.

“We just don’t do that. If the legislature requests information from the state police, we’ll provide that.”

Pendleton believes Kentucky stands poised on the frontlines of hemp production, with a growing season twice as long as Canada’s, the state’s potential rival to the north. They’ve been cultivating hemp for over a decade. Other states too, including North Dakota and Maine, are working toward their own hemp infrastructures. In Kentucky, Pendleton says the hemp issue is win-win.

“I think with the way the economy is now, the agriculture community is looking for another crop. We’re looking at biomass as to have an alternative there to corn. And then people are looking at number of people that’s laid off; this will create jobs to get factories to come here to make things out of the product.”

The 2010 General Assembly is still months ahead and there’s no way to know for sure what greeting the hemp bill will receive in the legislature. But if Pendleton and his supporters are correct, this could be one seed that doesn’t die on the Senate floor. By Angela Hatton. Source.

October 8, 2009 – If Hemp was discovered today it would be hailed a miracle for mankind as there are so many environmentally friendly products the plant and its byproducts can provide. If consumers want to contribute to a better planet, they need look no further than to choose products made with hemp. This post explores the huge potential impact of hemp – if only it were legal for farmers to grow and process in the United States.

Hunger and Starvation

The world is going through great suffering at present, with millions of people starving and millions more struggling to cope with the high cost of living. Most of these problems can be traced back to agriculturehunger and oil. Current unnatural farming methods require large amounts of money to be spent on pesticides and herbicides, making farming practices economically and environmentally unsustainable.

At the same time, the world’s population is increasing and the global community is desperate for a solution to meet the food requirements of all countries. Fortunately, there is a solution available – Hemp. Growing the hemp plant and using it to create thousands of products ranging from food, textiles, building materials, plastics etc. is a highly sustainable way to address hunger and a myriad of economic and social issues our world currently faces. (A more comprehensive discussion of this potential can be found here: Hemp: Africa’s Solution to Hunger and Poverty )

70 Years of Propaganda

The media portrayal of marijuana and drugs is largely responsible for the negative perception of hemp, Picture 37but most people fail to realize that commercial hemp is actually unfit for use as an intoxicant. THC, the active ingredient of regular cannabis responsible for producing the ‘high’ effect in drug users, is typically found in quantities of up to 20% or more. Industrial hemp on the other hand, generally contains less than 0.3% THC content, which is not enough to cause any physical or psychological effects. Smoking industrial hemp to get high is akin to trying to get drunk from non-alcoholic beer.

Hemp has a lengthy history of being a productive crop, even in the USA. Early presidents Washington and Jefferson used to grow the crop personally, and during a few different periods Americans were actually legally bound to grow hemp. The US government even produced a short movie in 1942 entitled Hemp for Victory to help encourage farmers to grow hemp.

Big Business Bans Hemp

Hemp was effectively banned with the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, but a chronic oil and material shortage during the Second World War meant the government desperately needed hemp again. It was1232477-TaxStamp re-legalized in 1942 and promoted with the Hemp for Victory movie. The original ban was at the request of big industry and after the shortages subsided it didn’t take long before they once again made sure that hemp wasn’t able to compete with their business interests.

The problem is that hemp is a naturally occurring solution to many of the world’s problems, and therefore can’t be patented and controlled by individuals. DuPont was one of the main companies behind the ban of hemp, which they pushed for shortly after patenting a nylon rope made from synthetic petrochemicals. In addition to the petrochemical industries, it also threatened the cotton, oil and timber industries, who formed an alliance to make sure hemp was outlawed.

Simply the Best

As well as being one of the earliest known domesticated plants, hemp is one of the fastest growing bio-masses known. The bark of the stalk contains possibly the longest natural soft fibers in the world. John+Deere+-+Hemp+FarmingThese two properties provide tremendous advantages over other crops in terms of practicality and uses.

Hemp is also very environmentally friendly. It grows well in a number of different soil types and climates, and is naturally resilient to weeds and pests. Some farmers even use it as a natural weed suppressor. The use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides and are widely unnecessary, with the plant rarely being attacked and strong enough to ward off the few pests which are attracted to it. They don’t call it ‘Weed’ without a reason, as it is able to grow strong like a weed without any assistance.

Wide Variety of Uses

The practical uses for hemp never seem to end, ranging from replacements for many of our current energy, clothing and building material sources to more simple uses such as fishing bait, cooking products and paints.

Food

Hemp seeds are possibly the most easily digestible source of complete proteins; contain high levels of Picture 39dietary fiber and B-vitamins, as well as containing all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids in the most appropriate ratios for human consumption. Their profile is so complete that if a human was to eat one thing for the rest of their life, they would live the longest on hemp seeds. Since they can be eaten raw, ground, sprouted or made into milk; hemp seeds can be used as a replacement for flour, butter, protein powder, milk and ice-cream. By the way, the seed is not psychoactive and will not act as a drug.

Fuel and Plastics

Biofuels such as biodiesel can be produced from the oil in hemp seeds and stalks. The fermentation of the whole plant can also produce alcohol fuel. Hemp can produce ten times more methanol than is possible from corn and seems an ideal substitute for the massive amounts corn crops around the world planted to provide fuel for vehicles. The hemp fibers are perfect for producing plastic moulded products, rather than relying on oil for their production. They are also well suited for the creation of biodegradable plastic products.

Construction

Similar to the way ancient cultures added straw to clay to reinforce bricks, hemp fibers added to hemp_house_lm190609concrete increase tensile strength, as well as reducing shrinkage and cracking. It can also be mixed with gypsum to produce light panels, or lime to make plaster. A combination mixture can be used for foundations, walls and ceilings, which is lighter than cement and has better sound and heat insulating properties. There has even been a ceramic tile equivalent produced. The quality of building materials is such that whole houses have been made based on hemp fiber.

Insulation

The actual building structure is not the only thing that can benefit from hemp’s insulating properties. semi-rigid-hemp-insulation-panel-140000The production of thermal insulation products is one of the most important sectors of the hemp industry. Hemp hurds are perfect to use due to their high silica content, and can be mixed with lime to produce a material which can be blown into areas requiring insulation. Since it is naturally renewable, it is better for the environment and can help to reduce heating costs for existing households.

Textiles

Hemp is a major competitor to the cotton industry. It produces 250% more fibers than cotton and hempconversedoesn’t require the same cocktail of chemicals cotton needs to grow successfully. It is said that around half of the world’s pesticides are used on cotton crops. Hemp is also far stronger, durable, absorbent, insulative and resistant to UV light and mold than cotton. Although it is generally coarse, advancements in processing have enabled a softening of hemp fibers to a comfortable level. Apart from shoes and clothing, hemp can also be used to produce coarse textiles such as upholstery and carpets.

Paper

The United States Constitution was drafted on hemp paper. uc06330Hemp can produce more than four times the dry weight of fiber in comparison to the average forest on the same size land. Additionally, trees will take approximately twenty years to regrow, where hemp can reach maturity in around four months. Apart from being far more practical to produce paper in terms of growth times and production levels, hemp paper is of a far superior quality to tree paper. Wood pulp paper may be lucky to last 50 years, whereas hemp pulp paper has been known to last centuries or even millennia. It can also be recycled many more times than traditional paper.

Personal Care Products

Hempseed oil has a wide variety of uses, especially in the personal care product range. It is widely used in creams as a moisturizing agent and is excellent for skin care. It is also present in a number of leading brand’s lotions, moisturizers, lip balms and perfumes. Bathroom products containing hemp are also popular, with soaps, shampoos and bubble baths being sold having a hemp component.

Motor vehicles

Today, many car parts are manufactured using hemp products. Their history dates back to 1941, where Henry Ford produced a car with a plastic body which was made from approximately 70% hemp fibers. picture-10Although the idea came about partly due to a steel shortage, tremendous benefits were revealed. The car could withstand blows ten times greater than steel without denting. It was so powerful that Ford used to swing an axe at the vehicle to show it would not be damaged. Unfortunately, the Marijuana Tax Act made production unviable and although some car parts are produced today, the full potential of hemp cars has never been realized.

THE PERFECT SOLUTION

Never has a more perfect solution been available to solve so many of the world’s problems. But the sad fact is that unless we rise up as a people and demand a change, we are unlikely to ever see the full benefits of hemp around the globe. This is because there are so many well established interest groups in the many sectors of the economy where hemp can provide benefit – interest groups who do not want to see it succeed. The potential benefits to mankind though are just too large to ignore – and we must work together to see that hemp is once again returned to a revered status in our economy.

Source.<

Please also see:
Hemp: Africa’s Solution to Hunger and Poverty
Canada – Hemp Bringing Highs to Farmers’ Lows

October 3, 2009 – by Hana Haatainen Caye – Do you know what happens when you smoke hemp? Not a whole lot. You may end up with a cough or a headache, but you certainly won’t end up with a high. Surprised? Most people are hempbecause they mistakenly think hemp is the same thing as marijuana. It’s not; even though they are both members of the plant species cannabis sativa and bear an uncanny resemblance. Actually, the psychoactive properties in marijuana come from the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in the flower of the plant. While the THC values in marijuana are about 15% – 20%, they’re only standardized at about 0.3% in industrial hemp.

So what’s all the hype with hemp? It’s actually an eco-friendly renewable resource that is once again warranting attention in the United States (although it’s not legal to commercially grow here). Hemp is an excellent alternative to cotton when it comes to clothing, as hemp is more resilient and water-resistant, offers better breathe-ability, and is, quite simply, softer and warmer. With the look of linen and the feel of flannel, it’s no wonder clothing made of hemp is gaining in popularity.

But clothing isn’t the only thing hemp is used for. Consider these facts:

* When used for building material, hemp is known to be better than wood in terms of quality and strength, as well as being less expensive
* Paper made from hemp can be recycled up to 7 times, versus only 4 times for paper made from wood pulp
* Hemp has 10 times less toxicity than salt and is as biodegradable as sugar
* When used to make bio-diesel fuel, it emits 80% less carbon dioxide and close to 100% less sulfur dioxide
* It boasts a production rate of up to 10 tons per acre every 4 months
* It matures in about 100 days versus the 50 – 100 years for a tree to mature
* Hemp crops are heat, cold, mildew, pest, light, drought and rot resistant
* There are far less chemicals used to produce fabric made of hemp than of cotton and other fibers
* The woody stalks, or hurds, of the hemp plant are used for a variety of products, including: paper, plastics, animal bedding and more efficient and cleaner burning fuels, such as ethanol and methane
* The plant fibers are perfect for clothing, canvas, paper, textiles and rope, as well as replacements for heavier toxic fibers and building materials generally made with recycled plastic and fiber

One of the most beneficial parts of the hemp plant comes from the seed which contains many nutrients for both human and animal consumption. The hemp seed consists of

* Calcium
* Magnesium
* Phosphorus
* Potassium
* Vitamin A
* Protein (25%)
* Insoluble fiber (15%)
* Carbohydrates (30%)

It also is the absolute best vegetable source of essential fatty acids, with 55% Omega 3 linoleic acid and 25% Omega 6 linoleic acid, as well as gama linoleic acid.

Hemp seeds can be used in baking or cooking, crushed or whole. Hempseed oil is the principle product derived from the seed and has many uses from nutrition to cosmetics to paints and varnishes.

The multiple uses of the hemp plant, coupled with its eco-friendly properties, makes it the perfect crop choice for farmers across America. So why are we not seeing this invaluable plant being harvested from coast to coast?

Well, not to sound cynical, but you’d have to ask a politician about this. After all, it’s the powers-that-be that enforce the law that makes industrial hemp production in the U.S. illegal. But it wasn’t always this way.

Up until 1883, nearly 90% of all paper in this country was made with hemp rather than wood pulp. Four million pounds of hemp seed was sold in the States in 1937, and up until that year, almost 90% of all rope and twine was manufactured from the hemp plant. Then there’s the car Henry Ford built in 1941, made from a hemp and wheat straw plastic. However, the popularity of hemp and its abundance seemed to be cutting into the potential profits of men like William Randolph Hearst and Pierre DuPont, who collaborated and succeeded in making hemp an illegal crop in the U.S. in 1937. What did they have to gain? Well, Hearst held interests in multiple lumber mills and personally owned huge forests. DuPont used petroleum to manufacture synthetic fuels and fibers, such as rayon, nylon and a variety of plastics. The versatility of hemp wasn’t welcome in their world.

Seventy-plus years later, what have we learned? Well, we’ve experienced an energy crisis, polluted our air and waterways, found that chemicals in synthetics can be a danger to our health, endangered our wildlife species with the destruction of the forests, created holes in our ozone layer, etc., etc.

Could this have been avoided? Possibly. Researchers estimate the if just 6% of the continental United States would be planted with hemp crops, this would provide for ALL our national energy needs. Is this factual? I don’t know. But it certainly should be worth investigating. So why is our government sitting on its hands on this one? Is it that there are too many Hearsts and DuPonts out there blocking the way for real change?

I don’t know about you, but this makes me angry. When I think about the possibility that we could have fuel with far less toxic emissions, affordable clothing that wouldn’t be chemically treated, healthy alternative sources of essential fatty acids, etc. I just want to schedule a meeting with the higher ups and ask them why it isn’t happening. They talk the talk of independence from foreign oil, but when given a sensible alternative, they turn a deaf ear. Angry…you bet I am. And frustrated with the stupidity and ignorance of people who continue to think it should be illegal, because they refuse to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Source.

October 2, 2009 – Michael Krahn’s life changed when he discovered the hemp plant in an Amsterdam, Holland shop in 1997.Picture 29

Krahn learned that hemp, one of the world’s first cultivated fibre plants, can be used to meet just about every requirement of society. Armed with the knowledge about its versatility as a health food, clothing fabric and construction material, he settled in Gimli, Manitoba Canada and opened a hemp business in his home in 2001.

Over the years, many Gimli area residents have concluded that Krahn might be on to something. His business — Fish Lips — spread gradually from his home to three increasingly prominent downtown Gimli locations before he undertook his latest and largest expansion in September. It was the opening of Fish Lips Hemp Shop and Cafe on the northwest corner of Centre St. and Second Ave.

“I’ve wanted to add a cafe right from the beginning,” says Krahn who has designed the cafe’s menu to complement his environmentally friendly hemp products.

He believes the many uses of hemp have led to the steady growth of his enterprise.

“Hemp can feed, house, fuel and clothe you,” he said. “It can be an alternative to anything made from wood, oil and plastic. And it can also be the basis for a healthy diet.”

Krahn said the plant’s shelled seeds — called Hemp Heartz — can lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as reducing arthritic swelling. He also said hemp seeds and oil increase energy, improve digestion and ward off such diseases as diabetes.

“They have the lowest content of bad fats and the greatest content of good fats,” he said.

He disputes the perception that hemp is a drug that will make users high. While both hemp and marijuana belong to the Cannabis family, he says there is a big difference between his multi-use plant and marijuana which is limited to smoking.

“People will not get high from hemp,” said Krahn who advertises his premises as “ a respectable joint” to denote that everything he does is legal. “It’s like corn, potatoes and barley. They are ingredients in alcohol, but you don’t get drunk every time you eat them.”

Krahn carries more than 40 different hemp-based products in the shop adjoining his cafe. The clothing line includes shirts, pants, jeans, hoodies, jackets, socks, shoes, bags and twine. Hemp food items range from flour to milk and cereal while personal care items on the shelves are a shampoo, a conditioner, hand and body lotion, bath and massage oil, and a moisturizing cream.

The hemp entrepreneur said his sales support not only Fish Lips, but also a growing number of Manitoba hemp farmers. Two of the biggest producers of an increasingly large crop are Hemp Food Producers of Dauphin and Winnipeg and Prairie Emeralds of Arborg and Ste. Agathe.

Krahn — who spent his early years in Jasper, Alta., and later attended Gimli High School — has set hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for his shop and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the cafe. That provides an opportunity for customers to sample a hemp protein shake and organic edibles before they buy products to take home.

“We buy mostly local food products and baking,” Krahn said. “Our suppliers include Green Beans fair trade coffee of Petersfied and Integrity Foods of Riverton.”

Although he has already had four expansions, Krahn does not plan to stand pat. In future, he plans to market industrial hemp products such as environment-friendly, bio-degradable insulation, gyproc and cement.

“The products we use today affect the planet that we leave for our children,” he said. “By purchasing products made from hemp, people are directly supporting the transition to a healthier community and lake.”

September 23, 2009 – Anyone who believes that the hemp industry is best left to the half-baked stoners of the world should spend a few hours talking textiles with Ken Barker. Five minutes intorhds20-100 the conversation it becomes clear that this guy is onto something big, and he knows exactly what he is doing.

Barker recently served as head of apparel at Adidas North America in Portland. Before that he held executive positions with Adidas and Levi Strauss in Canada. He knows how hard it is for apparel companies to meet the rising demand for clothing from earth-friendly sources. When he was with Adidas he entertained proposals to make fabric from soy, bamboo, even seaweed. None of them made as much sense as hemp, the plant that once served as the backbone of U.S. industry before it was banned in the 1930s.

Barker and another former Adidas executive, David Howitt (a brain behind the success of Oregon Chai), run an investment firm in Northwest Portland called the Meriwether Group. They have two hemp companies in their portfolio. Living Harvest, which makes hemp milk, is one of the fastest growing companies in Oregon. Naturally Advanced Technologies, the company Barker has run since 2006, recently raised more than $900,000 and plans to get its product to market within six months.

You know you’re talking to an entrepreneur when you ask how close they got to running out of money and you get a grin and a nod. “We took it down to under $200,000 just 30 days ago,” says Barker. “But once we were able to announce that we had some global players signed on as partners, we went out and raised a quick million dollars. That’s enough to take it to commercial production.”

NAT’s partnerships with the decidedly non-hippy powerhouses Hanes and Georgia Pacific offer hints about the company’s plans. The goal is the no-nonsense, low-cost, mass production of industrial hemp, initially for the apparel and pulp industries and eventually for natural plastics and biofuels. The company has trademarked a fiber technology called Crailar that Barker hopes to build into the next big apparel ingredient in the tradition of Lycra and Gore-Tex, but plant-based and organic.

The idea isn’t to replace the mountains of petroleum-based polyester used by Nike and Adidas, or the fields of pesticide-covered cotton gobbled up by Hanes and Levi Strauss, but rather to introduce Crailar into the existing system of textile manufacturing, as an option for manufacturers interested in going green. Thus the partnership with Hanes and textile researchers at North Carolina State.

The same general principle applies to the pulp industry, which is in deep trouble these days and could use some fresh ideas. Think paper towels and napkins without the stumps. The fact that Georgia Pacific has signed on suggests that the potential is there.

Barker calls hemp a “super-crop.” There is no disputing that hemp is a proven performer that grows like a weed without pesticides. It is also illegal, at the federal level, although Oregon recently became the seventh state to vote to legalize it at the statewide level. Barker argues that harvesting hemp locally would make sense, but in the meantime he says it is easy to import from Canada.

The potential for hemp has been there for decades — make that centuries. What has been missing in modern times (in addition to intelligent federal policy) is a team with the experience and expertise to take hemp production to the next competitive level. Barker and his partners could end up doing just that. If his plans come to fruition, they could breathe new life into the nation’s suffering pulp and textiles industries and offer a new option in the search for viable biofuels. All of which would build nicely on Oregon’s strengths in the apparel industry and in the business of going green. By Ben Jacklet. Source.

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