3 Innovations in Industrial Hemp Farming and Processing

When industrial hemp was legalized with the 2018 Farm Bill suddenly everyone and their mother (literally) wanted a piece of the pie. This manifested itself in a variety of different ways. It meant that existing hemp farms could expand their operations because there was suddenly more demand and more cash coming in. It meant that farmers who had traditionally focused on other cash crops, such as tobacco, now shifted some of their attention to hemp. It also meant that those who had no prior farming experience, hemp or otherwise, were all of the sudden dusting off their pitchforks and scouring Craigslist for the latest deals on tractors.

With all these new players it’s an exciting time to be in the business. This means that there’s tons of innovation going on in the industry with new people with different backgrounds getting into the space and applying their different sets of skills to these new problems. Let’s run through 3 innovations with hemp farming that have come about recently.

Coconut and MCT oil CBD extraction

Image result for coconut oil extraction
Image courtesy of Foodprenuers Hub

The extraction of the CBD from the base hemp plant is a vital process and one where, if not done correctly, can lead to excess waste and minimal yield of isolated CBD as a final product. Traditionally, CBD has been extracted using alcohol or CO2. However, these techniques are generally more expensive and although they create a cleaner end-product they often leave excessive waste in their wake.

Using coconut oil or MCT oil for extraction require minimal upfront tooling and costs and is a more natural process that yields high quality results. This extraction technique is especially useful for smaller CBD companies who may be confined by budgetary constraints for initial investments.

Coconut and MCT oils, otherwise known as carrier oils, act as solvents. This means they essentially dissolve the other substances and then when evaporated, leave behind the CBD isolate. The process is so simple that many small time hemp farmers can do it from their kitchen!

Optimizing for low THC industrial hemp

Photo credit: Sisk Farms

One of the trickiest parts of growing hemp plants for high CBD, low THC yields is that the plants naturally want to pollinate. However, pollination leads to the female plants producing seeds and thus less flowering, which leads to less CBD being harvested. In fact, hemp farmers are so cognizant of this fact that they won’t allow male plants in their crop.

Most farmers will buy transplants that they know to be male plants or they have to be extremely vigilant in checking their fields for male plants once the plants reach sexual maturity. Sorry, fellas, it’s ladies night in the hemp field.

Unfortunately, much of the timing around when to harvest in order to get high CBD yields that remain below the 0.3% THC. Generally, farmers will be hoping for a field of female plants that have high a concentration of CBD stored in their flowers. Many farmers in Alabama were just informed that their plants were below the legal limit and therefore were able to be sold to processors. This was surely a moment of relief for the farmers because, unfortunately, if the opposite were true and the plants were above the legal limit, there’s not much farmers can do to retroactively change this fact.

Pick-your-own hemp fields

Our final innovation actually comes from the business side of things rather than the technical side of things. In this recent article, the Press Herald describes Maine’s first “pick-your-own hemp” farm. This is thought to be the second publicly accessible hemp field in the United States.

We find this model incredibly appealing and innovative. It allows civilians and ‘everyday-Joe’s’ to access the benefits of hemp and CBD directly. This way they’re able to ensure they know what they’re getting in their products. Using some of the extraction techniques we’ve described above, individuals can go pick up a few of their own hemp plants and extract the CBD themselves.

Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer, The Press Herald

According to the article, in the first “public pick” about 50 people came to buy a hemp plant (or several). They’re priced by the pound.

Prices run $35 a pound for people who want to buy branches only, which include the leaves, flower and stem, or $25 a pound for customers who are willing to cut down, buy and take home the whole plant, much like is done at Christmas tree farms across Maine.

We’re thrilled to see companies innovating around all aspects of the hemp growing and harvesting process and are excited to see this drive prices down and let more people access CBD and its benefits.

-The Hemp Crate Co Team

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