Hemp as an Industrial Commodity
Hemp as an agricultural commodity is an emerging industry that will cause huge disruption in terms of manufacturing. The Hemp Industries Association estimated that the total U.S. revenue of hemp products in 2012 was nearly 500 million dollars. The global market for hemp consists of over 50,000 products in nine submarkets. The interior stalks of the cannabis Sativa plants contain hundreds of short, woody fibers called hurds. Hurds can be used to create bedding, paper, plastics, composites, and construction materials such as hemp-metal and hempcrete. Hempcrete is an equally tough and more lightweight substitute for concrete. Since hemp can be compressed to wood and used in papermaking, it would reduce the deforestation of our ever-shrinking rainforests. During deforestation, huge sections of land are cleared of all trees, use of all resources to the point where nothing can grow, and the area becomes a useless wasteland. Once it has been exhausted of all of its resources, the lumber industry simply moves on to the next section of forests. Hemp, however, requires one section of land for growing. If done correctly, cannabis can be harvested in an area indefinitely and does not require more deforestation. It can also be grown indoors.
The documentary Food Inc. points out the numerous and hidden problems with today’s food industry. Hemp can also make food more healthy and natural. Hemp can be used in cooking oil and butter, edible hemp products do not get one high. Hemp seeds contain essential amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin E, and carotene, which the human body needs. Food made with hemp is healthier than food made with artificial supplements. In addition, eating healthily improves one’s demeanor and physical health. The most revolutionary industry cannabis can be applied to is fuel. Hemp can be converted into biodiesel and heating oil.
The dilapidated warehouses and factories of Fall River and New Bedford could be converted into huge IoT indoor farms growing both food and hemp. Members of the community can purchase shares in these factories and the produce grown will not compete with the SouthCoast food economy, it will be used as exports to other parts of the Northeast. In times of disaster in Massachusetts, these factories can send food aid where it is needed and will regularly donate to food kitchens.
On top of growing hemp, these factories can be converted into processing and manufacturing operations. Using hemp processing and 3D manufacturing, they can create custom order materials made of hemp-plastic, hemp-wood, hempcrete, hemp-steel along with producing hemp biodiesel. In doing so, ensuring the SouthCoast has local access to affordable and environmentally friendly construction materials that will be needed to rebuild after the natural disasters of climate change. In addition to rebuilding, with 3D manufacturing, custom hempcrete “shells” can be created for existing infrastructure to proactively reinforce it and new infrastructure can be built with hemp materials. Hempcrete is less expensive, stronger, far less resource and pollution-intensive in terms of manufacturing, and actually absorbs CO2 meaning roads, bridges, and buildings can clean the air of pollutants. This would stimulate the local blue-collar economy by offering local businesses in architecture, carpentry, masonry, landscaping, construction, etc a wide range of new and affordable custom order materials.