Want to grow hemp? Help is rolling toward fields in 20 states as a mobile unit capable of processing 10 tons of hemp per hour will cross the Midwest, Northeast and West in 2018.
Producers stuck on the sidelines might be able to take advantage of HempHub USA, a push by two companies to transport processing machinery into states with legal hemp programs. Essentially, it will leapfrog infrastructure roadblocks and enable farmers to bring crops to market.
U.S. producers remain frustrated by a lack of opportunity because an approximate $600 million per year U.S. retail market for hemp products is dominated by imported grain and fiber. In 2017, the U.S. domestic hemp tally was only 25,541 acres, according to Vote Hemp. That’s despite an increase from 9,770 acres in 2016. Legal hoops, transport costs, marketing barriers and a lack of processing account for a financial tangle for many growers. HempLogic, based in Moses Lake, Wash., offers a range of services, including seed, consulting, harvest and processing. HempHub USA is a mobile processing system designed to give farmers a doorway into the hemp market.
“We’re doing this because farmers are standing around in every state wanting to grow hemp, but until now they’ve been stuck with a simple question: ‘What are we going to do with it?’” says Cory Sharp, CEO of HempLogic. “If you are in a state without hemp processing infrastructure, we can help.”
Sharp’s mobile processor, built by Colorado-based Power Zone Agriculture, is a decorticator, which separates fiber (outer bark) from hurd (woodier core).
Corbett Hefner, vice president of research and development for Power Zone, says mobile decorticators are ideal for hemp grower needs, whether their buyers are looking to use the hurd for hempcrete or animal bedding, or the fiber to make automotive parts or cordage.
“The mobile HempHub farmers market system allows for different hemp buyer needs, and we’ll package the first mill-processed hemp according to those needs,” he says.
Sharp often takes calls from growers requesting decortication for sitting hemp stalk bales. “We’re giving farmers an option,” he says. “We’ll decorticate and find out what they’ve got depending on variety and condition of the stalk. Then depending on the farmers’ end goals we can work together to get them access to the many different hemp varieties available, and then they’ll have a clearer plan on how to move forward to 2019.”
Andy Follett, owner of Follett Health Solutions, based in Pennsylvania, will steer the HempHub USA effort in the Northeast. The biggest hemp limitations are processing and market entry, he says, both of which are targeted by HempHub USA. “I’m consistently asked how much money can be made growing hemp,” Follett says. “We’re talking about one plant and 50 different industries. I advise farmers to figure out what market they want to put their product into
and focus on it. Before you plant, make sure you’ve got a solid supply chain in hand.”
“Growers are excited about hemp, but they just don’t know where to turn,” he adds. “Everyone with a farm is looking to increase revenue and for a lot of guys, it comes back to hemp.”