Canadian hemp can produce an impressive amount of vegetative biomass in a range from 2t/ha to 10 t/ha depending on cultivar. Hemp biomass offers several components: fiber (found in the bark/outer skin) about 25 to 30 percent of the stalk, hurd (woody inner portion of the hemp stalk), and dust screenings/particulates). Processing provides pure elements, as well as blends of these components.
In comparison with other bast fibers (such as from flax, kenaf, jute, or ramie), hemp fiber has excellent fiber length, strength, durability, absorbency, anti-mildew, and anti-microbial properties.
Hemp offers super absorbency. This quality is desirable for oil and gas cleanup, livestock bedding, and personal hygiene markets. Hemp’s very high tensile strength, strength-to-weight ratio, flexural strength, and ability to rebound are desired benefits in bio-composites for automotive parts, aerospace, and packaging. The textile, paper, and building markets have an interest in some
specialty applications due to hemp’s durability, anti-microbial, acoustic and aesthetic properties.
The fiber decortication (separation) capacity is expected to increase in Canada. Expansion of decortication capacity will enable a viable market for harvested hemp straw, which today is mainly disposed of or used for lower value applications such as windbreaks for livestock. Companies using hemp to manufacture new products and to green and/or innovate existing products will be
in a better position to increase their capacity and range of products.
In Alberta, the government is working with industry to advance product development and commercialization as well as facilitate supply chain development in the province. In 2009, the Government of Alberta invested in a fiber processing pilot plant for the decortication of the stalk (a system to separate bast fibers from hurd) in Vegreville.