The future of the hemp industry is in innovation. Thus, with supply exceeding demand in the current market, experts are advising we look towards expanding the scope of hemp use.
Long before formal federal and state rules were in place, the industry had bloomed significantly. Hence, by the time it was legally reclassified, we already knew virtually all there was to tell: to boost production, meet customer demand, and maintain cost efficiencies, advanced technology is needed.
But, now, it seems the topic, “what happens when supply exceeds demand?” should have been discussed, as well.
HOW IT STARTED
When hemp cultivation was decriminalized, everyone (especially those already in the farm business) began seeing a green idea of dedicating acreage to the plant; primarily known as the source of Cannabidiol (CBD).
As a result, by late 2019, the nation had effectively reached a state of surplus with hemp supply, now having over 510,000+ acres licensed to grow hemp.
Over a year later, we were further down the rabbit hole.
According to Portland, OR-based Whitney Economics, “The excess inventory of biomass, specifically for CBD, carried over into 2020.” Founder Beau Whitney attributed this situation to an “immature supply chain,” plus a deficiency in buyers on the processing level.
The exacerbated situation was also a result of the many COVID restrictions which somewhat dampened consumer demand for CBD products. This finally brought a switch in dialogues: how to improve the market? What new ways and areas are there in work with hemp?
Industry trade journals estimate over 50,000 different uses of industrial hemp, from textiles to sustainable construction materials to food and potential power sources.
In fact, sustainable hemp seed, fiber, and oil are making waves as raw materials in top companies, including Ford Motors, Patagonia, and The Body Shop, in many productions.
FOODS AND BEVERAGES
Although CBD, located in the aerial plants of the plant, remains tightly regulated, the seeds and roots of hemp are not, as they do not contain the phytocannabinoid. As a result, they are expansively explored as highly nutritious ingredients in foods.
Hemp seeds have been discovered to contain all essential amino acids and loads of heart-healthy fatty acids. Plus, they are recognized as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
Statistical analyses showed the global hemp market exhibited strong growth from 2015 – 2020, and it’s not stopping there. The market is anticipated to grow even further at a CAGR of around 15% during the 2021 – 2026 period.
This progression is due to many factors, ranging from the increasing consumer preference for vegan food products to rising health consciousness and increased consumer awareness of hemp-based food products in the food and beverage industry.
PERSONAL CARE AND COSMETIC PRODUCTS
Recently, the USDA announced that: it will be teaming up with a chemical manufacturing company on a project that could significantly expand the hemp-based cosmetic market.
In particular, hemp oil in personal care is one of the fast trending natural ingredients making headway in the cosmetic industry.
CONSTRUCTION AND INSULATION MATERIALS
The hemp plant is also steadily gaining momentum as a sustainable building material. For a long time now, the world has required a solution to the high greenhouse emission of buildings and regular construction processes; thus, hemp is more than a welcome alternative.
Made into the composite material, hempcrete, hemp is unlike typical building materials. The resulting mixture sequesters CO2, encapsulating it in its structure. And in terms of suitability, it has been found to meet present-day standards of most building applications, even outperforming some insulation materials.
But, while it has many perks like fire resistance, non-toxicity, and sustainability, its mechanical strength is still not proven. However, viewing the archaeological wonder: the Ellora caves of India, it could be argued that “hempcrete” stands the test of time.
FABRICS AND TEXTILES
Since the 19th century, the United States had constantly acknowledged the efficacy of hemp in textile fibers, making it into ropes, sails, clothing, and linens. Today, the country has re-embraced the trend.
Hemp is notably one of the sturdiest available natural fibers for textile processing; significantly stronger and more durable than cotton. It also offers better ultraviolet (UV) protection than other natural fiber-based fabrics.
With more benefits beyond the above listed, hemp ultimately checks off virtually all the boxes needed to be marked as a sustainable alternative. As a result, most hemp farmers modify their hemp strains for consistency and functionality.
Though past regulations limited the market for hemp fiber and textiles in the U.S, this changed with the implementation of the new Farm Bill. Since the U.S. imports of raw hemp fibers more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, the industry anticipates a rise in its domestic hemp market.
One of the enormous challenges of the 21st century is reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Experts estimate that due to the high dependence and finite supply of fossil fuels, we are likely to run out of fossil fuels before the next half of the century.
There is also the stewing matter of environmental pollution caused by the burning of the same fossil fuels. This situation is made evident in the current calamity; global warming. Hence, ‘green’ or renewable energy sources are the new gold, as man now sources bio alternatives to these resources, for which hemp is a potential candidate.
Though there are many sources for sustainable fuel, hemp tops the list. Its ability to grow swiftly and thrive well, even on infertile soil, makes it an excellent choice.
HOW IT’S GOING
As more industries research and launch viable ways to improve the sector, more innovations are ready for launch. A few more of the most recent innovations bound to transform the industry include:
- Manufacturing and Cultivation Machinery:
Cannabis cultivation, as a whole, is regarded as a labor-intensive venture. As a result, several companies have risen to provide means to automate these processes.
With a primary objective to save time, maximize cost, and stay consistent, the industry now has technology for virtually all cultivation stages, from transplanting to hand-held testing.
- Hemp plastics:
Again, in the air of the green revolution, are hemp plastics. These biocomposites are composed of biodegradable hemp fibers and are apparently more sturdy than regular plastic fibers. In 1941, Henry Ford created the first automobile using hemp fibers.
Testing it with an ax, he proved that these fibers are much stronger than polypropylene. A few additional traits of hemp plastics include lightweight, high durability, predictability, and biodegradability.