Tradical Hemcrete, a combination of hemp chips and lime-based binder, is the wall material of choice for a group of builders and designers in North Carolina

Devember 7, 2009 – Fabrics and rugs made with industrial hemp are often cited as acceptably green alternatives to floor coverings made from petrochemicals, or to woolen rugs treated heavily with insecticide. But hemp also has found its way into another domestic application.

And it is not the first alternative use that may come to mind.

Nauhaus Institute, a North Carolina-based coalition of designers, engineers, builders, developers, and others devoted to green construction, has been working with hemp as a wall-construction material. Called Tradical Hemcrete, the material is essentially a lime-based binder and industrial hemp chips (derived from the woody, pretty much unsmokable core of the hemp plant) that, when mixed with water, can be sprayed over a substrate on an exterior wall or poured into forms around timber or stick framing to create a thermally resistant but “breathable” barrier.

A wall-material bakeoff
As noted in a recent story in Asheville, North Carolina’s Citizen-Times, Nauhaus (pronounced “now house”) has two homes under construction that will feature Hemcrete walls. Nauhaus says on its website that, overall, hemp met sustainability, performance, cost, and aesthetic criteria better than competing materials.

“On the natural building side, we feel that earthen mixes don’t have adequate thermal performance in our climate while the vulnerability of straw bales to water damage concerns us,” the group’s partners say on the Nauhaus site. “On the high-performance commercial side, we are skeptical of the long-term durability of SIPS walls and feel that double-stick frame systems are too complex and prone to air infiltration weaknesses. These and other problems seem to be solved by what to us is a new material: Tradical Hemcrete.”

Hemcrete also is billed as insect- and fire-resistant. One issue the group couldn’t get around, however, is that, while industrial hemp products can be imported into the U.S., it is illegal to grow hemp here. Tradical Hemcrete is made in the U.K. by a division of Belgian firm Lhoist Group, a specialist in calcined-limestone products, and is distributed in the U.S. by Hemp Technologies, of Asheville.

A green quandary: shipping from the U.K.
The Citizen-Times story points out that shipping costs make Hemcrete considerably more expensive — the approximately 1,900 sq. ft. of Hemcrete required for one of the Nauhaus projects, with 3,100 sq. ft. of interior space and 12-inch-thick exterior walls, costs about $56,250. But Hemcrete walls also require less lumber, which reduces framing costs 30% to 40%, Greg Flavall, a co-founder of Hemp Technologies, told the paper. Another advantage to Hemcrete, says Nauhaus partner Chris Cashman, is that it serves as “your Sheetrock, insulation and Tyvek all rolled into one.”

Building-performance costs in both Nauhaus projects will be significantly lower than conventionally constructed homes of comparable size, although the smaller of the two structures, a 1,450-sq.-ft. four-bedroom that will serve as a Nauhaus prototype and test house, will have 16-inch-thick walls and solar panels on the roof to bring energy usage to net zero.

Not surprisingly, Nauhaus partners advocate legalizing industrial-hemp growing in the U.S. “Our feeling is, what a great crop this would be for North Carolina’s tobacco growers to get into,” Nauhaus partner Tim Callahan told the Citizen-Times. “Bringing this in from England is probably not the greatest idea (economically). If local farmers can benefit from this, it would be great for them and great for the economy.” Source.

Because hemp is the ultimate cash crop, producing more fiber, food and oil than any other plant on the planet.

December 1, 2009 – United States: Why Should Farmers Grow Hemp? According to the Notre Dame University publication, The Midland Naturalist, from a 1975 article called, “Feral Hemp in Southern Illinois,” about the wild hemp fields that annual efforts from law enforcement eradication teams cannot wipe out, an acre of hemp produces:

1. 8,000 pounds of hemp seed per acre.

* When cold-pressed, the 8,000 pounds of hemp seed yield over 300 gallons of hemp seed oil and a byproduct of
* 6,000 pounds of high protein hemp flour.

These seed oils are both a food and a biodiesel fuel. Currently, the most productive seed oil crops are soybeans, sunflower seeds and rape seed or canola. Each of these three seed oil crops produce between 100 to 120 gallons of oil per acre. Hemp seed produces three times more oil per acre than the next most productive seed oil crops, or over 300 gallons per acre, with a byproduct of 3 tons of food per acre. Hemp seed oil is also far more nutritious and beneficial for our health than any other seed oil crop.

In addition to the food and oil produced, there are several other byproducts and benefits to the cultivation of hemp.

2. Six to ten tons per acre of hemp bast fiber. Bast fiber makes canvas, rope, lace, linen, and ultra-thin specialty papers like cigarette and bible papers.

3. Twenty-five tons of hemp hurd fiber. Hemp hurd fiber makes all grades of paper, composite building materials, animal bedding and a material for the absorption of liquids and oils.

4. The deep tap root draws up sub-soil nutrients and then, when the leaves fall from the plant to the ground, they return these nutrients to the top soil for the next crop rotation.

5. The residual flowers, after the seeds are extracted, produce valuable medicines.

Our farmers need this valuable crop to be returned as an option for commercial agriculture.

While marijuana is prohibited, industrial hemp will be economically prohibitive due to the artificial regulatory burdens imposed by the prohibition of marijuana. When marijuana and cannabis are legally regulated, industrial hemp will return to its rightful place in our agricultural economy.

Hemp may be the plant that started humans down the road toward civilization with the invention of agriculture itself. All archaeologists agree that cannabis was among the first crops purposely cultivated by human beings at least over 6,000 years ago, and perhaps more than 12,000 years ago.

Restoring industrial hemp to its rightful place in agriculture today will return much control to our farmers, and away from the multinational corporations that dominate our political process and destroy our environment. These capital-intensive, non-sustainable, and environmentally destructive industries have usurped our economic resources and clear-cut huge tracts of the world’s forests, given us massive oil spills, wars, toxic waste, massive worldwide pollution, global warming and the destruction of entire ecosystems.

Prohibiting the cultivation of this ancient plant, the most productive source of fiber, oil and protein on our planet, is evil. In its place we have industries that give us processes and products that have led to unprecedented ecological crisis and worldwide destruction of the biological heritage that we should bequeath to our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Restore hemp! Source. By Paul Stanford

More Information on Hemp:
Why Can’t We Grow Hemp in America?
Hemp Facts
The Case for Hemp in America
The Versatility of the Incredible Hemp Plant and How It Can Help Create a More Sustainable Future

November 26, 2009 – Alberta Canada is going green, but not in the way some might think. Just outside the town of Vegreville, the Alberta Research Council is working to add hemp farming to Alberta’s list of lucrative industries.

The Vegreville nursery is home to the largest research and production facility of hemp in North America. Industrial hemp grown in Alberta can be used in a number of products ranging anywhere from textiles to fibreglass. Products made from hemp have less environmental impact than those made from glass or plastics, and in many cases are more energy efficient.

Jan Slaski, breeder and plant physiologist at the Vegreville facility, explained why this is the case.

“Bio composites produced from hemp are more environmentally friendly. Replacing glass fibre with bio-fibre produces a much lighter product. A lighter product means that your car, boat, or airplane is lighter and uses less fuel. High-end European car manufacturers, particularly German manufacturers, use bio-composites in their panels,” he said.

Historically, hemp has been grown in Canada for hundreds of years, but was banned in 1938 due to the associations hemp has with marijuana. This ban was later lifted in 1998. Industrial hemp, unlike marijuana, does not contain high levels of THC, the compound in marijuana that causes intoxication.

According to Slaski, Canada has very strict guidelines for hemp farmers.

“Cultivating hemp in Canada is regulated by Health Canada,” he stated. “The hemp that can be grown in Canada is strictly industrial hemp, and can only contain less than 0.3 per cent THC.”

This amount of THC is not enough to associate industrial hemp with narcotics. Such a low amount of chemical in industrial hemp should take the negative drug associations out of the industry.

The varieties of hemp currently grown in Alberta have mostly European origins. Researchers at the ARC have adapted European varieties to thrive in Alberta’s climate. Researchers have tested about 80 different cultivars (or plant varieties) from different regions to distinguish which varieties grow best in Alberta soil. The ARC has identified a Polish cultivar, also known as the Silesia variety, which has a 20–40 per cent higher crop yield than the cultivars presently allowed for cultivation in Canada. The group owns the sole rights to this variety of hemp in North America, and covers all aspects of hemp from development to processing to production, which is a benefit to the Alberta economy.

“ARC is offering solutions from seeds to the final product. This means we work with hemp to develop new cultivars and new agricultural practices. The new cultivars have a high yield and are adapted to our Alberta climate conditions,” Slaski said “We then take the hemp stock to our facilities in Millwoods, and soon we will have a processing facility in Vegreville, and process it.

The ARC oversees the hemp from seed to the final product. This means that all research, farming, and processing of the fibres is done locally keeping jobs and revenue within Alberta.

Slaski argued that this is a huge benefit to Alberta farmers and the overall economy. It’s also a benefit to individual farmers because hemp is a very lucrative crop.

“Farmers here in the province look for cash crops. They want something they can finally start making money on and hemp provides that opportunity,” Slaski said. Because industrial hemp is relatively new to Alberta, bio-composites are a bit more expensive, but the ARC is setting industry standards.

“At this point, it is a niche market,” Slaski said. “Working with mainstream industry, working with auto industries, buildings, textiles, it means we can get a much larger volume of materials produced and we can re-establish hemp as a valuable crop to Alberta.” By Krista Allan. Source.

ATLANTA, MI– Could industrial hemp be the next cash crop for northern Michigan farmers? A group in Montmorency County hopes so.

Everett Swift went before the Montmorency County Board of Commissioners Wednesday morning urging them to pass a resolution that would open up opportunities for farmers to cultivate industrial hemp.

“It’s got over 25,000 different uses,” Swift said. “Textiles, biofuels, they’re making biodegradable plastics, concrete, building materials.”

Currently it’s legal to sell hemp products, however it’s illegal to cultivate, or grow, hemp without a permit from the federal government. While hemp and marijuana both belong in the cannabis plant family, supporters of the pro-industrial hemp resolution say they are very different.

“The difference, it’s like a male and female plant,” said Jolene Fowler, a local hemp jewelry business owner. “Hemp doesn’t flower, it doesn’t have any narcotic effects.”

During Wednesday’s highly attended county commission meeting, supporters took turns expressing their views on the topic. In the end the Montmorency County Commission declined to take any action on the topic. It’s not clear if or when they’ll revisit the issue.

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.

A representative of HempOil Canada discusses the processing of hemp and materials made of hemp used in a myriad of products mainly destined for the United States:

November 22, 2009 – Hemp is at the point where canola was 30 years ago.

That was one of the messages at the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance’s national convention in Winnipeg this week.

Keith Watson, Hemp Specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, says the industry continues go grow.

He says they’ve seen an average of 20 percent growth in the hemp industry over the last five years.

While it can be said that hemp is at the same stage as canola was 30 years ago, watson predicts it will take half the time for hemp to become a staple in Manitoba crop rotations.

Meanwhile, grain yields were lower than normal for this year’s hemp crop.

Height was around average.

Watson says the cool weather set the crop back and yields would have been even lower if September had not been much warmer than normal.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 acres of hemp were grown in Manitoba this year.

That’s about twice as much as in 2007 and 2008 but nowhere close to the record number of acres grown in 2006. Source.