Startup Canadian Industrial Hemp Corporation (CIHC) said it has raised more than $1 million of a $5 million dollar goal on crowdfunding site wefunder.com.
Lewes, Delaware-based CIHC has been working on a plan to open a factory for the production of high-performance plastics from hemp and flax fiber for five years, with patents pending on its Smart Stalk technology, an advanced processing and optimization system central to the company’s plans.
CIHC launched its crowdfunding campaign this month. Both accredited and non-accredited investors can support the company with investments starting at $100.
“Our intention is to provide cost-competitive, high performance, eco-friendly manufacturing material to benefit consumers as well as American businesses and farmers,” CIHC founder and CEO Robert Ziner told HempToday.
CIHC achieved a major milestone in July when the company finished testing its “compatibilizer,” technology that allows plant fibers to be injection molded. The samples produced demonstrate the opportunity to immediately begin replacing traditional oil-based plastic inputs with eco-friendly plant-based raw materials, CIHC said. Tests showed the prototype bio-composite pellets proved stronger and lighter than conventional plastics – and that they can be produced at a cost lower, according to the company.
CIHC said funds raised will go toward setting up a 60,000-sq.-ft manufacturing and distribution center that will employ 70. Initially, the company’s two products will be bio-composite plastic pellets and hemp fibers.
Potential in U.S. north
Ziner noted potential in North Dakota and Montana especially, where hundreds of thousands of tons of flax stalk produced annually as a by-product of food crops go to waste. Up to 93% of such agricultural waste is turned out annually in the United States. Canada produces as much as 500,000 tons of such leftover material each year.
“For the first time, there is an opportunity to replicate in North America what is already being done successfully in Europe: using agricultural waste to make plastic products,” Ziner said.
CIHC said it has drawn interest from large plastic manufacturing companies which have confirmed that demand for sustainable plastics will be significant in the coming years.
Ziner envisions a major bio-pellet market opportunity in the North American auto industry, mirroring market developments in Europe and Asia, where the materials are used in bio-composite internal trim parts. Hemp is seen as lowering both the cost and the weight of a vehicle – critical benefits to the automobile industry because plastics account for 20% of the weight of most cars.
Reducing environmental impact
Engineered bio-pellets can also be used as thermoplastic feedstock in the manufacture of plastic building elements such as windows and doors, siding, extruded moldings and decking. The pellets can be used in combination with plant-derived polymers to create 100% plant-based and biodegradable plastics through injection, extrusion, and pultrusion molding processes, Ziner said.
Compared to traditional plastics, plant-based fiber biocomposite plastics reduce life-cycle environmental impact by 25%, CIHC noted, suggesting manufacturers are turning to such materials to reduce their carbon footprints. Interest in light-weight plastics has skyrocketed as automotive manufacturers strive to make cars and trucks as fuel-efficient as possible, CIHC also said.
Smart Stalk system
CIHC’s Smart Stalk system offers the potential to reduce the unit cost of decortication by as much as 45% by employing artificial-intelligence technology designed to focus on productivity and production flexibility, thereby maximizing the value added to input stalk.
Ziner said CIHC’s first facility will serve as a prototype for other factories around the United States.
An expert in mergers and acquisitions, manufacturing, B2B marketing and distribution, Ziner studied industrial hemp applications while earning an MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He has more than 30 years of experience in the building materials and secondary wood processing industries.