The Hemp Story

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A traditional industry reinventing itself


Hemp is one of the oldest, heartiest and most versatile plants on earth. It has been an important source of fibres, food and medicine throughout history. The industrial strain, known as cannabis sativa, produces fibre, oil and seeds. The entire plant can be processed into a wide range of raw materials such as pulp, paper, fuel, resins and wax. In the construction industry, variously processed hemp is used as a main component in bricks, particle board, insulation, and hempcrete, a concrete-like mixture that can be plastered or sprayed onto interior and exterior walls. Hemp building materials reverse the damaging effects of greenhouse gases by locking up harmful CO2 emissions. In essence, these materials breathe. They are also stronger and lighter than those used in traditional construction.


Hemp uses sunlight more efficiently than most other plants, and therefore grows dense and vigorously, making it generally free of weeds, which fail under the canopy of a hemp field. It is also naturally resistant to pests, so rarely needs chemical treatment. Hemp limits topsoil erosion and its resultant water pollution, while its roots supply nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil and reduce ground water salinity. From a soil management perspective, hemp is perfect as a rotation crop because it replenishes the fields in which it is grown. It is especially complementary in rotation with wheat or soybean. Hemp grows to maturity in just 14 weeks


Hemp has been grown in almost all European and Asian countries throughout history, and served as an important raw material for making ropes, canvas, textiles, paper and oil products. The first rope in recorded history was twisted from hemp in China in the 28th century B.C., with hemp-based paper and clothing dating to about the same period. In the pinnacle of sailing during the 17th century, Europe’s hemp industry had a heyday making sails rigging, ropes, nets, flags, and even seamen’s uniforms for national fleets.


A growing number of organizations promote hemp for industrial use, expanding science and research and binding industry players together. Of course, they recognise hemp’s vast potential across a number of vertical markets. With regard to building materials, they know the ecological and other natural advantages of hemp-based products; and they recognise hemp’s potential to help meet the European Union’s EC2020 carbon reduction goals. Area-wide hemp farming combined with local processing and production factories also holds great promise to contribute to Europe’s rural economies, and such schemes are supported by EU programs.


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