CALGARY — Not that way back, Rod Lanier might depend on an annual spring go to from the police.
The southern Alberta farmer has been rising hemp for 12 years, and within the early days, the distinctive odour that wafts from his fields when the crop is in flower would invariably be a magnet for space residents.
“For years every spring, the police must come out to ask, ‘Mr. Lanier, is that hemp or is that marijuana?’ ” Lanier remembers. “And I might reply, ‘if it was marijuana, would I develop a mile by a mile area of it, proper beside the freeway?” ”
Immediately, Lanier is much much less prone to get a knock on his door simply because the wind is blowing a sure manner. As soon as thought-about a little bit of an oddity, Lanier is now considered one of a couple of dozen farmers within the Lethbridge space rising industrial hemp — and the sight and scent of the distinctive, jagged-leafed plant are far much less prone to appeal to unwelcome consideration.
Actually, hemp, which is a part of the hashish household however accommodates no THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), is having fun with a little bit of a second. Throughout the Prairie provinces, new companies are popping as much as course of and market totally different components of the plant.
Hemp farming remains to be a fledgling trade, however some proponents imagine it has the potential to maneuver from a distinct segment crop to a staple of Canadian agriculture.
“How can we flip hemp into the subsequent canola? How can we flip hemp right into a 500,000 acre crop within the subsequent 10 years?” says Andrew Potter, chief government and president of Blue Sky Hemp Ventures.
“I imagine it’s very, very doable.”
Based on Well being Canada, which licenses and regulates the commercial hemp trade on this nation, there have been about 22,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of hemp seeded in Canada in 2020, up from simply 2,400 hectares (5,900 acres) in 1998. Alberta leads the way in which in hemp manufacturing, adopted by Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The expansion in acreage is because of a number of components, together with rising curiosity in hemp seed as a dietary “superfood” in addition to the legalization of hashish in 2018. That opened up a brand new income for farmers, as hemp growers can now harvest flowers for CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabinoid that was as soon as unlawful with out a medical prescription.
Blue Sky, which was based in 2017, believes the important thing to increasing the hemp trade is “entire plant utilization.” The corporate already has a CBD extraction facility close to Saskatoon and one other facility in central Saskatchewan is able to processing 5,500 tonnes of hemp seed yearly into meals merchandise like protein powder and hemp seed oil.
Blue Sky can also be on the verge of saying its plans for a large-scale “decortication” facility, which Potter says will course of the hemp plant’s powerful stems and stalks into fibre merchandise. Hemp fibre can be utilized to make all the things from constructing merchandise and insulation to textiles.
Dan Madlung, president and chief government of BioComposites Group, which runs a hemp fibre processing plant close to Drayton Valley in central Alberta, says creating this third plank of the hemp trade is essential. Prior to now, most Canadian farmers rising hemp for seed have had no purchaser for the stems and stalks, and have needed to let that a part of the plant go to waste.
Constructing out decortication capability throughout the Prairies would give farmers a 3rd income stream and a a lot higher incentive to develop hemp, Madlung says. He provides BioComposites Group already has plans for a brand new, bigger second facility to be inbuilt a yet-to-be-announced Alberta location.
“Now we have what it takes proper now to develop a brand new trade,” Madlung mentioned. “However there’s tons of curiosity throughout North America . . . others might beat us to the punch.”
There are nonetheless many challenges that have to be overcome earlier than hemp farming turns into actually mainstream. Whereas farmers not should endure a felony data verify to develop industrial hemp (it was required earlier than hashish was legalized), they nonetheless face different regulatory necessities akin to Well being Canada licensing.
The trade additionally must spend money on market growth and commercialization, says Manny Deol, government director of the non-profit Alberta Hemp Alliance. Many shoppers don’t know fairly what to do with hemp hearts or hempseed oil, so there’s room for the event of extra customer-friendly merchandise.
Farmers additionally must be inspired to develop a crop that could be brand-new to them, Deol says. As a result of the hemp plant can also be good at sequestering carbon dioxide within the soil — higher than many different crops — the trade is lobbying for the creation of a carbon credit score for farmers who develop it. That would supply further incentive for producers seeking to department out.
Canadian hemp exports exceeded $110-million in 2019, and Deol says he believes this nation might have a $1-billion trade by 2030, if it does all the things proper. He says traders seem to assume so too, given the variety of new processing services just lately constructed or proposed.
“There’s a buzz about hemp proper now,” Deol says. “I believe farmers and different enterprise individuals are on the lookout for any diversification alternatives, in order that they’re watching this crop.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed July 25, 2021.
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press