SOLUTIONS TO TOP CHALLENGES HEMP FARMERS FACE – Mariposa Technology
The market opportunities for hemp have revealed themselves, and several major brands, such as Levi’s and Unilever, are adopting hemp solutions. Sadly, the scarcity of hemp-producing technologies limits the scope of hemp’s future applications.
Hemp seed is one of many products derived from the multipurpose plant. It has reported nutritional, medicinal, and industrial value. Unfortunately, without the necessary instruments, gathering and processing these tiny seeds becomes an economically unviable procedure.
There is also the complexity of hemp farming regulations. The carpet of rules in the hemp industry has producers looking for solutions that can automate and improve the numerous production checks they must do.
The demand for high-quality agricultural technology in the hemp business is more than a desire. Hemp growers require solutions that can increase their competitive edge (and revenues) by considering their challenges.
3 PROBLEMS HEMP FARMERS FACE IN CULTIVATION
The USDA hemp policies are some of the most contentious rules in the hemp industry. While it supports hemp legalization, only a few producers will agree on its status as a pro-hemp law.
According to the USDA interim final rule, every hemp crop that exceeds the nominal 0.3 percent THC limit must be destroyed. This is an extremely tricky rule in all cases.
First scenario: Hemp farmers must submit crop samples for THC testing within 15 days of harvesting, according to the rule. Nevertheless, as many farmers have discovered, receiving a green light from your crop’s THC testing does not guarantee compliance at harvest.
Second scenario: There is little room to experiment with new cultivars due to the narrow window between oversight and non-compliance. Daring farmers will almost certainly spend more money on routine laboratory tests and reliable production.
Third scenario: Every season, cannabis farmers must decide between maximizing profits and harvesting before maturity.
Scientific research demonstrates a proportional relationship between cannabinoid levels – an increase in CBD levels may result in an increase in THC levels. To avoid risking compliance, producers must leave a massive amount of unyielded cannabis on the table. And, in order to escape shelling profits, they must put the entire harvest on the line.
Fourth scenario: This also presents the second core challenge hemp producers face in complying with the USDA rules. There is a tight bottleneck in the hemp testing sector.
According to USDA regulations, hemp crop samples must be tested in an authorized laboratory. Unfortunately, compared to the volume of biomass samples requiring testing, there is a scarcity of these facilities.
Because of this disproportion, not all producers get their products tested in time for harvest, leaving the majority at a colossal risk of loss.
Finally, hemp producers must deal with weed and pest control. While these farmers have toxicity testing guidelines, only a few procedures are in place to properly deal with these productivity-impairing agents.
Farmers rushed to join the hemp craze five years ago, with the thoughts of earning $100,000 per acre dancing in their heads. Now, optimism is not as it was before, and these farmers are seeking new systems that could put power in their hands and not leave them at the whim of nature, the market, or limited resources.
CAN MODERN AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY SOLVE THE HEMP FARMERS’ TROUBLES?
Agricultural technology is already helping farmers reduce losses and boost productivity regardless of time, season, and socioeconomic or health status. It has broadened the possibilities of farming applications and processes and fueled the expansion of the farming and hemp industries.
It is slowly but firmly fitting into the current ecological trend of sustainable systems and versatile solutions.
Biotechnology and genetic engineering have boosted crop resistance, increased agricultural yields, and created cultivars that could thrive on previously unusable grounds (infertile soils), facilitating better land use management and conservation of natural resources.
Modern technologies, such as robots, precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and others, have resulted in effective crop management, product tracing, greater revenues, decreased waste, and a positive effect on the industry. Real-time testing equipment spares farmers from dealing with bottlenecks and weeks of waiting for crop testing results.
Because of these technological advancements, hemp production is now viewed as even more environmentally beneficial and is gaining worldwide support. Popular critiques of matters, such as their water-intensive nature, are being silenced with the development of precision water management and farming systems as hemp operations slowly adopt these technologies.
Bill Campbell, former Director of Cultivation at The Source, revealed that his team reduced their water usage by 60 percent since they installed grow media water sensors that cost only $50 to $100 each, saving over 300 gallons daily. He said this new precision water management system reduced their business expenses and increased their crops’ cannabinoid and terpene content.
In August 2020, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Growing Together Research Inc. launched a project to create superior genetics for industrial hemp, characterized by desirable phenotypic and genotypic features and possibly zero THC “markers.” This project is similar to biotechnological work in the industry that aims to design fully feminized hemp seeds—seeds guaranteed to be 100 percent female and remain so even under stress.
Mold and pollen sensor systems that function in real-time are another example of technologies protecting the profitability of hemp farmers and tackling their fundamental issues. Operators can customize these sensor systems for specific mold and pollen and use them to collect data on the air composition and alert them of potential threats.
Hemp growers are benefiting from advances in AgTech. However, some farmers have not realized the benefits of these discoveries because of the slow adoption of agricultural technology in hemp fields.
WHY THE SLOW ADOPTION OF AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY IN HEMP FIELDS?
Several research publications identify two crucial incentives to adopt AgTech: the availability and affordability of systems and the farmers’ belief that embracing them would cause them to remain profitable. These two factors affect the degree to which a farmer, even a hemp farmer, is risk-averse. Yet, the slow adoption rate of agricultural technologies in hemp fields extends beyond money and profits.
Some farmers have no faith in the systems and would prefer to continue with their non-conventional ways rather than implement strategies that appear to be unnecessarily complex and illogical. Moreover, some farmers prefer autonomy on their farms and would preferably not get cultivation advice from an “office person.”
These sects require a conviction that agricultural technology is a less demanding and practical method for hemp cultivation that would help them realize more output with fewer inputs, if applied properly. However, there must be a messenger to spread the message.
Agricultural extension agents are the official binding link between researchers and farmers. They help researchers identify the issues farmers encounter and farmers realize these technologies aren’t a basic corporate affair but a potential positive game-changer for them.
Therefore, it is important to re-evaluate and fortify the networks between farmers, researchers, and these agricultural extension agents. Doing so could help these farmers understand and build confidence in agricultural technology systems and encourage researchers to develop more technologies for the farmers’ challenges.