By Bryan Labby, CBC News
Many Alberta farmers have taken to hemp to round out their crops and some say they're making a tidy profit.
According to a recent study done by Alberta Agriculture, farmers in the province seeded the most hemp in all of Canada at 6,434 hectares last year.
The preliminary estimate for this year is 8,000 hectares.
"As long as we keep making money we'll keep growing it," says Will Van Roessel.
The Bow Island-area farmer is about to harvest hemp for the third straight year.
He's been contracted to grow the hemp for its seeds, which could be processed into a wide range of products including oil, flour, shampoo and wood sealant. Van Roessel says he's expecting to make three times the amount he would get for wheat.
As for the overwhelming smell from the acres and acres of hemp, Van Roessel says he doesn't mind.
"Well some people don't like it at all. I quite enjoy the smell, so it's fine with me," he said.
New market needed
By Angela Brown, Portage la Prairie News
Hemp Oil Canada Inc., which is based in Manitoba, announced this week that it is the first in the world to gain international food safety accreditation for hemp food.
"This is good news for Hemp Oil Canada and the hemp industry as a whole," said Alphonsus Utioh, product development manager with Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie, "because it would allow this company to be able to access more markets for companies that require hemp suppliers with this accreditation."
The FDC makes a number of hemp products itself and encourages the promotion for the hemp industry.
"The Food Development Centre has worked with the hemp industry for quite some time now," said Utioh. "We have worked with the industry to produce the various products."
The Food Development Centre is currently using hemp product in the development of muesli cereal mix, which will be coming out into the market sometime in the future.
As well, the FDC has been using hemp for the development of its nutrition bars.
"Hemp is known for its Omega-3 and Omega-6 — for the Essential Fatty Acids," said Utioh. "The hemp protein also has high digestibility value."
Utioh explained with Hemp Oil Canada receiving International food safety accreditation it will encourage more companies to develop product with hemp.
By Susan Mcguire, The Gazette
Photograph by William Eaves, Jr.
Hemp breakfast cereal, hemp clothing, hemp hand cream - all available in perfectly respectable stores. Is this the same hemp that is illegal to grow in Canada? No, not at all.
These products come from what is called industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L), a distant cousin of the marijuana plant. Both are part of a diverse plant species of more than 500 varieties that includes the hops used to make beer.
Farmers have been cultivating industrial hemp for 10,000 years, starting in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and in China's Yellow River Valley. For centuries, people used hemp fibre to make clothes, rope, sails and paper; they stewed, roasted and milled the grain for food; and used the oil for cosmetics, lighting, paints and varnishes.
In the 1660s and 1670s, Jean Talon encouraged the farmers of New France to grow hemp by giving them free seed, which they had to plant immediately and replace with seed from their next year's crop. So important was hemp that he confiscated all the thread in the colony and gave it back only in return for hemp. Women needed thread, and he knew that would put pressure on their husbands to grow the crop. However, production collapsed when Talon went back to France.
Will help spur growth for Manitoba Harvest
By Martin Cash, Winnipeg Free Press
MANITOBA Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils has landed another round of venture-capital funding to help finance growth and strengthen its supply chain.
No totals were disclosed in the latest round of financing from Calgary-based Avrio Ventures and White Road Investments from Emeryville, Calif., but Manitoba Harvest CEO Mike Fata said it's a multimillion-dollar investment.
"This investment is to help fuel our growth," he said. "We have been growing by leaps and bounds in Canada and the U.S."
The company has been averaging 40 to 50 per cent annual growth and Fata said sales in the first five weeks of its current fiscal year have doubled last year's.
Founded in 1998, the company has a blossoming portfolio of products, from hemp beverages and hemp protein to powders, oil, butter and Hemp Hearts.
It's also expanding its distribution channel.
Before, Manitoba Harvest products were predominantly found in natural-foods stores. But now they're in Safeway and other grocery stores -- in the general produce section at that, not just the health-foods section -- as well as more than 60 Costco stores in Canada.
By Carole Rooney, 100 Mile House Free Press
100 Mile House Industrial Hemp Producer's Group chair Dave Zirnhelt recently provided a project update.
The Zirnhelt Timber Frames construction company, founded and owned by his sons, recently finished eight, four- by eight-foot industrial hemp panels.
The local project shares information with the University of Manitoba, and professor Kris Dick recently came out to observe the construction and install sensors to monitor the drying process, Zirnhelt explains.
That performance data is now electronically linked to transmit to the university, he adds.
An ongoing challenge that remains and prevents moving forward significantly from here, Zirnhelt says, is tying down somebody in the market who will agree to put up funds for product development.
"Now, it's back to mostly the private sector to make the business opportunities work. I think one of the weaknesses is we thought it was something anybody and everybody could do."
These previously-unknown obstacles include irrigation, likely required for drier years; good soils, or otherwise high input costs; and finding places or equipment that can process the tough hemp fibre. All of these problems are hindered by the market weakness, Zirnhelt explains.
Canada is investing in innovation that will help develop new bio-composites derived from hemp fibers.
By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent
SASKATCHEWAN - Members of Parliament have pledged funding for the Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) to study hemp fibers with the goal of making composites that perform better than fiberglass and plastic.
"Finding new and innovative uses for our flax and hemp will greatly benefit farmers and the economy in Western Canada," said MP Bruinooge. "This investment will enable farmers to adapt their growth and harvesting regimes to optimize fibre performance, increasing the demand for their crops and resulting in increased profitability."
The investment through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP) is designed to study the sub-molecular structure of hemp fibers.
"This exciting collaboration between the CIC and our world-class Canadian synchrotron facility will provide our local and national biomass industries with a key competitive edge in a growing international marketplace," says CIC Manager of Product Innovation Simon Potter. "The information we generate with the Canadian Light Source will support the high penetration of agricultural fibers into building materials and composites for automotive and aerospace products."
By Rita Trichur, Globe and Mail
Photo by John Woods, Globe and Mail
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 and Japan.
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.
By Gabrielle Giroday, Winnepeg Free Press
Bet you never thought a bus part might be made with hemp, canola and flax.
But Helena Marak, Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council program coordinator, sees possibilities for the products you might be more used to encountering on the shelves of your local health-food store.
Marak stood Saturday morning with a brown University of Manitoba prototype at the Agriculture in the City event at The Forks.
"People have really found this interesting. They marvel at the strength of it. It's really, really strong, it's durable and, of course, it's made with natural fibres that are grown right here in Manitoba, so that's a big bonus," said Marak.
She said hemp fibres left over from making food products can be used for other purposes, like products for the transportation or aerospace industry such as car door panels.
The three-day event is dedicated to educating the public about farmers, agriculture science and research, and uses for Manitoba crops beyond the table.
Event organizer Reg Sims said it started in 2003 and is expected to draw thousands of people.
"At one time, everybody in the city had an uncle or a grandparent that lived on a farm. They'd go to the farm, they knew their milk came from cows, their hamburgers came from cows," said Sims. He said he believes farmers are "the greatest stewards of our land."
"Agriculture is a lot more than food," he said.
By Government of Alberta, Agriculture and Rural Development
Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. The species was banned in North America in late 1930s because its leaves and flowers contained a hallucinogenic drug known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It was banned internationally in 1961 under the United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Hemp does suffer from the “snicker factor”, largely because of its hippy-dippy image and close association with marijuana, its conscious-altering cousin.
By Country Guide staff
Manitoba's provincial government has pledged $20 million over the next 10 years to support development and manufacturing of ag- and forestry-based bioproducts.
The new Manitoba Bio-products Strategy was announced Thursday at Riverton in the province's Interlake region, where a local firm, Erosion Control Blankets, makes erosion-suppression products from wheat straw.
The province's farms and forests yield a "valuable supply" of biomass every year, Premier Greg Selinger said in a release, noting the biomass' use in biofuels, chemical processing and other materials.
"Research and development in Manitoba is already turning hemp, flax and wheat byproducts into paper, insulation, roofing tiles, biodegradable food packaging and ultra-lightweight components for aerospace and transportation sectors," the government said.
Out of the $20 million pledged, the province for 2011 has budgeted "more than $4 million in project funding available to research institutions and entrepreneurs working on developing innovative bio-products," Selinger said.
Venture capital firm helps with expansion
By Martin Cash, Winnipeg Free Press
Photo by Mike Deal
Mike Fata says only the global recession has managed to slow the company down.
When daytime talk show stars like Martha Stewart and Dr. Oz start endorsing the health and nutritional benefits of hemp-seed foods, chances are it's only a matter of time before middle America will start queuing up to buy the product.
And that's exactly what's been happening with products like hemp-seed oil, hemp milk, hemp-seed butter, shelled hemp seed and hemp protein and fibre powder.
What that means for Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils, the largest vertically integrated hemp food manufacturer in the world, is it needs more capital to keep pace with that growth.
This week, the Winnipeg company announced Avrio Ventures, a Calgary-based venture capital firm that specializes in industrial bio-products, nutraceutical ingredients and food technology companies, just made another multimillion-dollar investment in its operation. "It is huge news for us," said Mike Fata, Manitoba Harvest's CEO and co-founder.
It's Manitoba Harvest's second placement from Avrio, a $75-million fund that is partially backed by Farm Credit Canada.
Over the last 12 years, the Winnipeg company has quietly become one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, with average annual growth of between 50 and 75 per cent.
By USA Today Staff
Now if your car breaks down and you're stuck by the side of the road, you can try to break off a piece and smoke it.
Well, not really. But the thought -- and the jokes -- are sure to arise over the hemp-fiber car that a group of Canadian companies will try to make, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports.
The companies are collaborating on a car called the Kestrel that will have a body made of resin-impregnated industrial hemp, a tough fiber that comes from the cannabis family member that also results in marijuana. Unlike marijuana, hemp has a very low content of THC, the chemical that makes dope smokers high. Even so, it's illegal to grow in the U.S., so the Canadians think they might have an edge.
It's not a completely new idea. That Lotus Eco Elise from 2008, shown above, also has a hemp body.
The compact electric Kestrel will be prototyped and tested later by Calgary-based Motive Industries.
The CBC says Henry Ford first built a car made of hemp fiber and resin more than half a century ago.
By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, Fox News
As we're faced with an increasingly large world population and ever-dwindling resources the race is on to produce cars that not only produce zero tailpipe emissions, but ones that are green to manufacture too.
But what is the ultimate material for cars? Steel is strong, but hardly light enough to make ultra-efficient vehicles. Many plastics are based on oil, and composite materials like carbon fibre are difficult and costly to manufacture and repair.
Enter the Kestrel. Designed and engineered by Motive Industries, a Canadian firm based in Alberta, the fully electric car features a body shell made of hemp--which may be better known as Cannabis Sativa L.
The hemp for the Kestrel's body is grown by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) under license from the Canadian government.
Unlike the cannabis Californians may find available at their local medical marijuana dispensaries, hemp grown by AITF ends up on a production line, where it is turned into a composite material that has the impact resistance of fiberglass.
But unlike fiberglass, the hemp bio-composite is cheaper to produce and has fewer health risks connected with its manufacture. It is also significantly lighter than glass-based composites traditionally used in racing cars.
By Dimakatso Motau
The composite materials industry has the potential to contribute to the growth of the local economy, says the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) chief researcher and research group leader for composite materials Dr Rajesh Anandjiwala.
This view is also supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Trade and Industry, which have identified the growth of natural fibre-based industries as a significant agro economic tool.
Anandjiwala says that South Africa has the potential to become a tier-two supplier of composite products in future. However, he adds that the country must aim to become a tier-one supplier for higher benefits and job retentions.
However, to achieve this, the country must overcome certain challenges in the composites industry. Anandjiwala points to a lack of raw materials being manufactured locally, which results in the import of certain raw materials, such as natural fibres, some speciality chemicals and resins. He says the development of the industry is also hindered by the lack of a skilled workforce.
He adds that natural fibres in composites will also provide other benefits for industries in South Africa. The advantages of using natural fibres in composites include its light weight, which results in weight saving, a cheaper raw material price from the natural source, thermal recycling and the ecological advantages of using renewable resources, he explains.
Some researchers believe hemp has many properties that make it perfect for sustainability.
Our Future Planet investigates.
Reasoned argument over the value of hemp can often be tricky to achieve, polarized between die hard hemp and cannabis enthusiasts and skeptics regarding the arguments as woolly shirted, hippy doctrine.
The reality, as usual, is nowhere near as aggressive. For a start, a few facts surrounding the material do seem to indicate its worth within a sustainable agenda.
It appears industrial hemp can provide many of the raw materials we need as a society to function. Myriad websites list the uses: hemp food, hemp oil, hemp plastics, hemp insulation, hemp concrete, hemp paper, and other hemp composites.
‘Hemp is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, producing about ten tons of dry product per acre per year,’ explains http://www.hemp.com/. This is a pretty crucial fact. In a climate facing water shortages and rising temperatures, speed of production for sustainable materials is going to become key.