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Industrial Hemp and How It’s Processed

Industrial Hemp and How It’s Processed

What is Industrial Hemp?

Industrial hemp farming is becoming increasingly popular, due in part to just how versatile this plant is. So what exactly is industrial hemp? Both hemp and marijuana are from the same species; however, they are cultivated for very different uses. While marijuana is used in medical and recreational situations by THC’s psychoactive properties stimulating mental and physical reactions. Industrial hemp, on the other hand, is grown for the properties of the non-THC part of the plant, like the stalk and seeds. How is hemp made into products? There are several key ways producers break it down. 

How to Process Hemp

Industrial hemp processing comes in different stages and with different mechanisms depending on the part of the plant you are harvesting. There are also factors to consider in large swaths of industrial hemp that are being grown to be processed like growing weed with natural light and how to grow cannabis. Once producers have mastered those techniques, learning how to process hemp is the next step. 

To understand how hemp is processed it is important to understand how the cannabis growing stages affect the industrial processing process. So how is hemp grown and processed? 

Stalks

Stalks are harvested for their fiber. Stalk fiber is very thin and fine, which means it can be used for a myriad of uses. There are two ways that stalk fiber is processed: decortication and retting. 

Decortication occurs when equipment is used to remove the thicker interior (the hurd) from the surrounding stalk. After the hurds are removed from the stalks at an industrial hemp processing plant, the fibers are put in a scutcher to prepare for spinning. The scutcher removed seeds or extra hurd particles that could affect the fiber processing. After scutching, the fibers are combed through to remove any broken fibers and make sure the fibers are also aligned. 

The question of how to process hemp by retting is that when the bark tissue that binds the fiber to the stalk is broken down the fiber is usable. There are several methods – including dew, water, green, and chemical – that take various time periods to fully separate the fibers. Like with decortication, broken fibers also have to be removed. 

Leaves & Flowers

Leaves and flowers on the hemp plant can be separated from the stalks by using machines like separators and grinders. After removal, processes like grinding cannabis in bulk are used to get the leaves and flowers processed for smoking uses. 

Roots

Roots, of course, have to be processed by removing the entirety of the hemp plant from the earth. Processing roots is rarer because of this, but you are also able to use the entire plant when doing this. Roots are ground to be put in different products, or the root itself can be juiced and boiled as is for use. 

Seeds

When growing hemp for seeds, producers begin to harvest when the seeds start to “shatter”. In other words, the pods that the seeds are in will begin to split open so the seeds can drop. However, it is important that the seeds are processed before the actual seed drop. Seed moisture will typically be about 20-30%. This is ideal since seeds will be pressed, and have to be easily manipulated. 

When harvesting and processing seeds, it is best to avoid tall strains. A combine is used to harvest seeds, so the thinner and smaller the plant, the less chance of tangling in the combine. 

After seeds are harvested, the hemp processing facility will use gentle vibrations to dehull the seeds, which is taking the pod/shell of the seeds off. From there, depending on the processing facility, seeds will be transferred within the facility or to another business to be pressed, which is how to make hemp seed oil, or processed into other seed types. 

Uses for Industrial Hemp

Once you know how to process hemp, the next step is taking that processed industrial hemp and using it for products. The product that industrial hemp can be made into depends on what part of the plant you are working with. 

Stalk 

Fiber

The stalk is where hemp fiber processing comes into play. Once the hemp is processed into fiber from the stalk, it can be used for several purposes. One of the most popular uses for hemp fiber is in textiles. Processing hemp fiber into textiles creates durable yet lightweight fabrics. Clothing items like jeans made from hemp have the same feel as classic denim, but are even more comfortable due to hemp’s extremely fine fibers. In fact, this goes for any clothing items that are made from hemp. 

In addition to filling closets with hemp-based clothing, processing the stalk into fiber textiles can be used for reusable bags, couch covers, pillow cases, and much more! 

Stalk fiber can also be used for insulation. Hemp insulation is poised to take off in the construction and contracting industry. The insulation is tough and gets the job done, but it is also non-toxic and non-cancerous. This will keep home do-it-yourselfers and homebuilders much safer than traditional insulation without compromising quality. 

These are just a couple of examples of the variance that hemp stalk processing can be used for. Researchers are coming up with more and more ways to use stalk fiber, ushering in a great age of hemp stalk fiber! 

Hurds

Stalk hurds have often been an overlooked part of the stalk. For a long time hurds were considered just a waste byproduct of how to make hemp fiber. However, luckily for consumers and the hurds, manufacturers have come up with more and more ways to use them. 

Due to their woodchip like texture and appearance, hurds make a soft and non-toxic alternative for animal bedding. Anyone with small pets like rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, etc. know that animal bedding is essential to comfortable housing. Hemp hurd animal bedding is a cheap and safe alternative for all our furry friends. 

Hurds are a go-to for gardeners. They can be used for organic and natural mulches and composts. Whether it be at a greenhouse scale or a home garden scale, hurds are an amazing alternative for flourishing plants. 

Perhaps the hurds biggest claim to fame is it can be processed to make paper. The positive environmental impacts of using stalk hurds to make paper cannot be understated. Any chance paper manufacturers can have to move away from deforestation should be taken, and hurds offer them that chance. 

Leaves & Flowers

Like the stalk hurds, hemp leaves and flowers can be used for animal bedding and composts. However, they are most known for recreational and medical cannabis and are used with dispensary supplies. Since this part of the plant contains THC, it is smoked or ingested through edibles to give consumers a high. 

Knowing how to store weed as a business and how to keep marijuana fresh is vital if you are using the THC part of the hemp plant. Extending the shelf life of bud is necessary to get the best products possible. 

Roots

The roots of hemp can be used for organic compost and gardening material – are you sensing a theme here? Just like the stalks and leaves/flowers, roots compost well and provide nutrient rich soil for plants. 

Roots can also be used medicinally. Hemp have been used for thousands of years in a healing way. The roots are commonly used to treat inflammation, depression, pain management, and infections.  

Seeds

Hemp seed processing probably provides the longest list of uses. Seeds can be processed into three different categories: oil, seed cake, and hemp nut. 

Oil

Like the name would suggest, hemp seed oil can be used in two ways we would think of traditional oil. The first is for cooking. Hemp oil is healthy and non-toxic, and the earthy taste pairs well with multiple food groups. It can also be used as an oil substitute in dressings and sauces. 

The other way hemp oil can be used in the more “traditional” oil sense is with body oils. Consumers use oils as moisturizers, cleansers, and conditioners. Hemp oils do not contain cancerous chemicals, and are also completely vegan for the eco-conscious consumer. 

Oil also can be useful as fuel. As the race for alternatives for fossil fuels grows, hemp oil has been touted as a potential biofuel that can power cars and other machinery. Like making paper from hurds, using hemp oil as fuel would have amazing consequences for the environment. 

Seed Cake

Seed cake prefers to milled (or ground) seeds that have a finer grain. Because of this, seed cake flour is popular for bakers. It is a gluten-free alternative to traditional flour; additionally, the flavor is known for breads and more savory baked goods. 

Feeling thirsty? Seed cake is used to make beer! Seed cakes give a robust and hearty flavor to beer, and have been creeping up in popularity in the craft beer world. 

A final way seed cake can be used is in animal feed. It can be used as a non-hormonal feed for poultry, which is better for the animals themselves and for humans who consume them. Seed cake should definitely be considered for a far better alternative for animal feed. 

Hemp Nut

Hemp nuts are commonly used for anything ingestible. This includes non-dairy alternatives to milk and other dairy products like cheese or cream. Someone who is dairy-free or lactose intolerant will be drawn to the health properties of hemp nut dairy products. 

If you want to get your pump on, hemp nuts make tasty protein powders. Good vegan protein powders are hard to come by, but hemp nut powders are delicious and make thick shakes. 

Conclusion

The answer of how to process hemp no doubt has many steps, but the ability the plant has to be turned into incredible products for nearly every industry makes the effort by far worth it. The hemp manufacturing process will continue to innovate and expand as the uses for industrial hemp also expand.

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