By Marco Leavitt
One factor driving the growing hemp industry is the sheer versatility of the plant. Consumers are probably most familiar with products derived from cannabinoids in hemp such as CBD. There are a host of other cannabinoids hitting the market as well. You can find hemp-derived edibles, tinctures, fuel, and even textiles these days.
For hemp farmers looking to maximize the profit potential of the product, there is another developing market. It’s based on a byproduct of hemp sometimes considered waste — the woody interior of the plant’s stalk known as hemp hurd. Hurd can become bedding for animals, building material, acoustic treatment, and even biofuel.
Separating the hurd from the hemp stalk
In order to separate the woody core from the fibrous outer covering, the hemp stalk goes through a process called retting. The simplest way to do this hardly involves any work. You just leave hemp stalks out to rot for four to six weeks in the field after harvest. This allows moisture and microbes to break down the pectin holding the stem together. Other methods of retting involve soaking the stalks in water or the direct application of enzymes.
Once retting is complete, stalks are then dried and passed through rollers which crush and break the woody core into smaller pieces. Next, the hurd gets beaten and scraped away from the fiber using a process called scutching.
At this point, the hurd is ready to use. It’s a useful product to the textile industry, but also has more applications. Because hemp hurd is so absorbent, it has immediate use as animal bedding. Products composed of hurd, like cat litter and horse bedding, are already on the market.
Hurd can help build stuff
Another industry finding use for hemp hurd is in construction. It can become a concrete-like material known as Hempcrete. This gets created by mixing the material with lime and sand. The resulting substance has much less density than concrete, so is less brittle. It is typically used with a frame to support the vertical load on a construction job. As an alternative material to build walls, Hempcrete offers unique benefits. It’s fireproof and mold-resistant. It also holds beneficial acoustic properties.
Hurd can cook your food
Hemp hurd also has use as a biofuel. When pressed into pellets, it can power existing pellet stoves. When burned, the pellets create a fraction of the ash produced by traditional wood-based pellets. This reduction in waste is good all around.
Hemp hurd and bioplastics
Hemp Hurd is primarily cellulose. Ongoing research indicates that it may play a significant role in the bioplastics industry. One advantage it has is the cost. The substance may eventually become economically competitive with existing fossil fuel-produced products.
Another reason for hurd’s competitiveness in this space is the rapid growth of the hemp plant itself. This gives it an advantage over sources of cellulose, like corn, that grows much slower. It is also hoped that hemp-based sources for polymers will prove more biodegradable than fossil fuels. This may help battle the accumulation of micro-plastics around the globe. This is a major problem of the plastics industry.
Make good use of your hurd
For Alabama farmers, partnering with a hemp processor who understands how to get the most out of every part of the plant, including hemp hurd, is essential. At Arbor Vita, our seed-to-sale variety of services ensures you have access to process your hemp in any way you want. From extracting essential hemp oils like CBD, to drying and processing biomass, we have the facilities and equipment to get the job done. Contact us today to learn more.