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World cannabis in 2015


World cannabis in 2015


Rachele Invernizzi is a member and agricultural coordinator for south Italy at Assocanapa, Italy’s national association supporting the reintroduction of hemp cultivation and the use of hemp raw material for major industries. She is also President at privately-held South Hemp Tecno srl, a processor located in Crispiano-Taranto in southern Italy.

HempToday: What is South Hemp’s overall philosophy and approach to the economics of the hemp processing business?
Rachele Invernizzi: SHT was conceived first of all as a factory to process hemp straw and at the same time to be the first link in a local production chain. I always say that without a factory, you can’t make anything with hemp. But without a source for hemp, it’s useless to build a processing plant. We produce fiber and shives into raw materials for green building, paper (cellulose) and bio-plastics, polymers and bio-composites markets. The market for cellulose and bio-polymers will grow in the near future while green building is already a reality. We also make animal bedding and loose material for agricultural mulch.

HT: You’ve said hemp can play a part in keeping young people from leaving rural areas as it presents fresh business opportunities. Describe the best scenario in which this phenomenon could happen. In other words, describe this dream coming true.
RI: Hemp has so many applications that if the value chain gains strength, the industry in southern Italy will begin to work. As a result, young people will be able to find work without having to emigrate to the north of the country or abroad, as many do. They don’t necessarily have to be in agriculture, but can think of developing final products. It helps that the south of our country has some important economic aid from the European Union, many of which funds are targeted to young people who want to create businesses. With hemp you can do everything!

HT: Please describe how you obtain cut hemp from the field to feed your processing line. What does the supply chain structure in Italy look like, and where is South Hemp in that supply chain?
RI: Our chain operates across southern Italy, in eight regions. 
After seeding, so from May onwards, we start holding meetings, conventions and conferences. We attract farmers, agronomists, industry associations, landowners and other potential end users. We talk about  agriculture, agricultural techniques and everything needed to get them to conduct agricultural tests with hemp. We also talk about current markets for end-use, and possible opportunities based on those markets.
     Farmers who decide to join call us in November and we make a list of all the people who are interested in planting hemp. We act as a medium for the supply of seed, which comes from Assocanapa, Ltd., a certified seed vendor.
     Once the farmers have sown, we help them to prepare the paperwork to be sent to the police, we talk with the various police headquarters, which still nowadays aren’t up to date and can be obstructive. But we are now highly trained and and we’ve created conditions where they don’t confiscate anymore.
     We sign a contract with each farmer for the transfer of the final goods, regardless of what the production is. We help those who need it with the sowing, and we monitor the fields for progress. At least a couple of times per growing season, I try to be at each supplier and in every field, which are within a 400 km radius. We give remote assistance, but if we’re needed, we go to the fields. This gives a lot of courage to farmers! Visiting farmers in their fields is the most beautiful part of my business. I see beautiful places, Italy is all beautiful, but the south and its people are special.
     Once the straw is ready, SHT withdraws it from the warehouse, pays the farmers and starts the round for the following year.

HT:  Can you talk about the growth outlook for your company? What do you expect over the next three years.
RI: Well, we’re not even one year old yet. But we are happy because with the arrival of spring the green building business has started, which today is our first focus. The ideal today is paying the expenses without having to invest more money — so breaking even is the first goal. We are in production since October and it’s all slowly cranking. We work very well with HempEcoSystems Italy srl, a hemp builder, and one of our first customers.
     By the end of the year we’ll begin production of pulp to make paper. Right now, we’re  experimenting with a large and important Italian paper manufacturer who will buy the product. The other nice thing is that we are studying bio-plastic materials with the Nano Technologies University of Lecce, for further use of the raw materials. That market is growing rapidly and we are expanding.
     After the third year of operation we expect to begin recovering the invested capital. But first we have the great task of creating the market, in all areas.

HT:  What lessons were learned through the Assocanapa economic study that looked at the potential for the hemp industry in southern Italy?
RI: We learned that for the first three years you must invest; then you will have great return! More than the income statement, there’s a great thrill in being in a market at the very beginning of an era. Everything needs to be done, and that’s just fantastic.
 The potential of south Italy both for agricultural production and for innovation is there, so establishing hemp markets is a key first challenge.

HT: What is your personal hemp history? When did you first get involved with hemp, and who influenced you along the way.
RI: I got a message in a dream. It was October 2011. At that time I had three possibilities. In Italy, the market for olive oil is very attractive. Olive oil is produced abundantly by us in the south. Then there was the hemp — something new and unknown but exciting. The the third possibility, which I do not regret, was to do nothing and manage what little I had. It was obvious that hemp was the best choice.
     I contacted the Assocanapa Association that same month, then in 2012 I planted 2.9 hectares that were seized as drugs. In that case, we’re at a stalemate after a year and a half of court sessions. Then in 2013 I became a member of Assocanapa Ltd. located in Carmagnola (Turin) and had a trial of 120 hectares sown in different areas of southern Italy. From there I decided to start up my own business and to create the first entirely Italian industrial plant for processing straw, which Assocanapa Ltd. proposed.
     The equipment was made by them in Piedmont, in northern Italy, and then was transferred and mounted in Taranto at our place.
     My hemp guru is Felice Giraudo, great reference for  hemp cultivation in Italy, and the president of Assocanapa.



An independent agrologist, researcher and educator, Anndrea Hermann is President of the U.S.-based Hemp Industries Association and an adviser to Vote Hemp Inc. (USA) and the Hemp Association of Queensland and Victoria  (Australia). HempToday caught up with Anndrea ahead of her presentation at the European Industrial Hemp Association annual conference later this month.

HempToday: Can you give us a teaser? Just one or two of the findings you’ll present when you give an overview of the hemp scene in North America at the EIHA conference later this month?
Anndrea Hermann: Canada has exported over US $47,908,003 globally of which $42,384,217 was to the USA according to Source: Statistics Canada, CATSNET Analytics. I will also provide an update on the current status in the USA and discuss my efforts to conduct 12 hemp variety trials from four countries in the USA by acquiring DEA import permits along with each country’s export permit.

HT: What kind of students are attracted to the hemp­ themed classes that you teach at Oregon State?
AH: WSE266 Industrial Hemp is a 3 credit hour Ecampus course that attracts first year, graduate and extended education students ranging from 17-60+ years of age. Since the course is offered online, anybody and take it from anywhere in the world if they have internet access.

HT: As you resume your presidency of the Hemp Industries Association in North America, what is goal No. 1 for your next term?
AH: I have been honored to be the President of HIA for 2 years now and look forward to continuing to serve our members by providing my 20 years of insight into working with hemp in Canada and internationally. This year the HIA launched state chapters. These chapters are key to driving education and legalization of agriculturally grown industrial hemp. My goal is to continue to support our members and share my knowledge to build a stronger, more united industry.

HT: What’s the best thing about being an independent entrepreneur?
AH: Making other people’s hemp dreams come true which in return makes my hemp dreams a reality. I enjoy being able to share the knowledge I have earned and learned over my 20+ years supporting this cause and this plant. Since cannabis is part of my final vocabulary and hemp being the first word, I want to share that with as many as I can. I love being a mentor and being part of something that is so globally important. 

HT: How and when did your interest in hemp start?
AH: When I was in high school I learned of marijuana then learned of hemp and its role in my home state of Missouri. From this moment I felt that American farmers and consumers were being wronged since we could not cultivate it, and I wanted to do something about that. With support of my professor, Dr. Jackson at Missouri Southern State University. I took what was a passion and turned it into my education. I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees focused only on industrial hemp. It is a true honor to be an industry stakeholder guiding and learning with, and from, the next generations of hempsters!

Architect & hemp builder/Rachel Bevan Architects – UK

Tom Woolley, of Rachel Bevan Architects, is an expert in hemp building and the renovation of old buildings. He is a former professor of architecture at Queens University, Belfast, and past editor of Green Building Digest. Tom conducts workshops on hemp building all over the world.

HempToday: Who attends your workshops?
TW: The hempcrete building workshops that I run are mostly attended by professional architects, engineers and builders, but there are also some self builders and people who have a general interest. Some workshops have also been attended by students and researchers.
    We tend to set them at a fairly high technical level but the non professionals seem to be able to follow it all.
The workshops always include hands on mixing and casting of small sections of hemp wall so that everyone gets to understand what the correct mix looks like and how tamping, etc. is done.

HT: It seems the broader economics of hemp as a general building material are a bit challenged. What’s the key to boosting demand?
TW: The economics of hempcrete are not a problem. Building with hempcrete costs no more than conventional construction if done correctly with the right materials. Some take the view that there is more labour involved than in conventional construction but this is not really true. Self builders and volunteers can reduce costs by using their labour to mix and place the hempcrete.
    The barriers to the use of hempcrete are much more to do with prejudice and ignorance. Most architects prefer to use petrochemical based materials that they are used to. They are worried about bio-based materials. Their clients are often scared off using hempcrete as it is not common. Compliance with building regulations can also seem to be a problem but we have never had difficulty with this in the UK. There are some people and companies who have tried to push up the cost of hempcrete for their own profits and they have found ways of building that make hempcrete much more expensive.

HT: On a micro scale, isn’t it true that a localised hemp-growing and processing operations offer the best business model at present? Some efforts at processing on a large scale in Europe have failed.
TW: Small scale localised growing and processing of hemp would be an ideal model but this is not likely to happen in the short term. At the moment we have a reliable supplier of hemp shiv in the UK who is not overcharging to supply. It is annoying to have delivery and transport costs but this is not such a big problem. Our supplier has even shipped hemp shiv to South Africa.
    Large scale processing of hemp can work successfully (such as in Holland) but smaller scale factories can also work. The important thing is to ensure that investors are not looking for a quick return and are in it for the long term.

HT: What does it look like with respect to EU-wide standards for hemp building materials?
TW: We are a long way away from EU standards for hempcrete. This is because the current Construction Products Directive is aimed at manufactured products, not natural materials that are mixed on site.
    Thus we need a very different approach from the EU to recognise the importance of generic standards for natural materials.

HT: What do you see as the challenges ahead for the hemp building industry, or what should be the goals?
TW: We need to set our own standards and guidelines to make sure that people use hempcrete correctly and to ensure that cowboy suppliers of unsatisfactory materials are outlawed.

HT: What brings you the greatest satisfaction — completing a new building or finishing up a renovation?
TW: The greatest satisfaction with hempcrete is demonstrating it to people who have never seen it before who are then amazed by how wonderful it is.

HT: What’s ahead for you and Rachel Bevan Architects in the coming year?
TW: We will be delivering workshops in England, Shropshire, Devon and Dorset, Austria and possibly Germany, South Africa and New Zealand.
    We have several projects at an early stage where clients are keen to use hempcrete for both new-build and renovation in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Founder/Hemp Eco Systems – Switzerland

 Jorgen Hempel is the founder of Switzerland-based Hemp Eco Systems SA, and has 20 years experience in hemp building. He started using hemp as a building and insulation material with the pioneering Frenchman Yves Kuhn in the early 1990s. A graduate of the IMD Business School in Lausanne, Jorgen is also an historical renovation expert, and has served as a consultant to NGOs and humanitarian aid organisations as well as the European Commission. His firm developed HESmix, a hemp-lime-based insulation material, as well as related finishes for interior and exterior application.

HempToday: How would you describe the market “pulse” today as far as hemp building in general is concerned?
JH: I am a prudent optimist, and I prefer to take a broad and long-term view. I’d say the market for natural building materials is about to snowball, and for several reasons. First, over the last 50 years or so the quality of building reached the lowest possible level one can imagine, with the emphasis on speed and holding down costs. Truly serving the client with the best, most healthy — and ultimately the most cost-efficient — solutions, unfortunately, was not a priority.
    So now, when its obvious that houses and buildings need to be renovated to meet current standards, we find that the clients are not so ignorant. They know that building or renovating a house has a major impact on their future capital savings. And when these enlightened owner-investors find out that money must be spent to bring their buildings up to standard and keep their market value, they seek best solutions as opposed to cheap solutions. They’re not ready to make the same mistakes twice, in other words.
    At the same time, they realise very well that the world has a climate problem and that very few are doing anything serious about it. Meanwhile scientists and politicians hold super conferences, paid for by the taxpayer, to discuss who is right and who is wrong about climate change instead of confronting the real problem and finding solutions.
    The knowledgeable owner-investor knows natural materials use little energy and may even absorb more CO2 than they emit. When you explain to people that their house can be built or renovated with natural materials, that their house will be breathing and have no plastic membranes or ventilators because all is regulated by the natural walls at no extra charge, then you are in perfect synergy with the inhabitants. They’ll always see the advantages of natural solutions to those which are almost all synthetic and contain toxic materials like glues, paints, anti-fire retardants, anti-fungus chemicals — and the associated health problems.  
    At Hemp Eco Systems, we were very lucky. It was by pure accident that we suddenly found that using the purest of all limes (calcium carbonate) as a binder for hemp walls, roofs and finishes we were able to create a so-called alkaline interior atmosphere as opposed to the acidic atmosphere you get when using modern building materials.
    This is an old lesson: The Romans and builders in the Middle Ages used hydrated lime everywhere; in the 18th century hemp was grown and used for building all over Europe. Even our grandfathers used lime to paint their stables — not to make them white but to kill bacteria and give the animals a healthy environment. We’re trying to take these history lessons and adapt them to today’s needs — at no extra cost.

HT: What’s your view on how the hemp construction market will shape up over the next few years? Are more hemp derivatives going to find their way into the building industry?
JH: Hemp-based building materials are so unique that no other building material on the market today can match the quality and efficiency of these products while at the same time solving the multitude of problems related to the environment. We’re pushing back against the latter day practice of using non-natural materials and cement and have opted for the use of hydrated lime, which is the purest and only real lime. Why? Because this lime carbonates with water and cures, absorbs CO2 and in time returns to its original calcium carbonate. This is nothing but the magic of nature.
    Hemp Eco Systems improved on this process by adding five natural minerals to the lime to make it cure in a few days instead of the usual 4-6 months. Thanks to the great work done by Wolf Jordan in our laboratory in Antwerp, the result is a hemp-lime product that is alive all the time, and produces the most efficient thermal results of any insulation material on the market. It regulates the humidity naturally, does not burn or rot, contains no toxic materials and is fully recyclable.
    Anyway, I’m predicting that the use of hemp building materials will grow steadily and perhaps even fast. So will the cultivation and processing.

HT: Can you briefly describe the chain of events that gets your HESmix products from the field to the market and then onto the building site? We’re asking here about your supplier system and network down to your affiliates and associate contractors.
JH: The hemp hurds come from the processing plant in 20kg bales. The transport cost is high and it is important to have the processing not too far away from the user market.
    At Hemp Eco Systems, we decided not to do the building or renovation work ourselves; we leave that to professional entrepreneurs. We buy the raw materials
(hemp, lime and additive) in bulk and store it in each country or region and distribute to our entrepreneur-associates.   By this method we assure the quality and guaranteed supply as well as the right price.
    Well organised hemp processors exist in Europe, with the French the absolute leaders. We hope that many new plants surrounded by the growers will be established in the coming years, just like we have seen the market develop in Italy lately.
    In each country where we work, we look for 10 to 50 entrepreneurs that become our associates. We work with them to build up their business and all that means for job creation in their localities, and the other economic benefits. These associates also work with local authorities, architects and builders, etc., to make them aware of our products and technology.

HT: What would you say are the most important things that an associate/entrepreneur could bring to a relationship with Hemp Eco Systems? What kind of people are they?
JH: The most important things the entrepreneur contributes to our organisation are his professionalism, his preference for quality and his knowledge of the wishes and traditions of the people of his region. We have a preference for the family entrepreneur because quality is still deeply rooted in his way of working and he understands it’s necessary to create a synergy and sense of trust. When we changed our policy to outsource the work to entrepreneurs, we were motivated by the fact that we would have to work “light-weight” ourselves in order to spread our products more widely across the international market.
    We bring our entrepreneur associates an alternative that is better for the client’s finances, for nature, for healthy living and at a price in line with other alternatives, but with a multitude of advantages for all, including the fact that new and retrofit projects will last for the next 100 years.

HT: What’s your analysis of the growing and processing situation around Europe and how does it look with respect to supply and demand for processed raw hemp straw?
JH: There is no doubt that the processing people have a few problems. First, it’s a challenge to assemble farmers in cooperatives to be able to get to an appropriate scale. Beyond that, it’s also necessary to design factories that produce four by-products from the same plant, and then have to sell them all at the end of the harvest season.
In light of these challenges, we have to always remember — and be inspired by — the fact that the hemp plant has served man for the last 4,000 years. My opinion is that those companies who are forward-looking will overcome the problems and eventually be the hemp industry’s big winners.

HT: Common wisdom has it that economic models where hemp growing and processing are close together are best. Do you see any future in export of hemp building materials that are perhaps produced by local entrepreneurial groups?
JH: Of course, the seeds are in demand and are exportable all over the world because their price and low-weight and volume make it financially feasible. And soon the medical market will take an interest in parts of the plant. Exporting fibres does pose a problem but new markets are on the way, now that the world is slowly realising natural products and the qualities represented by hemp are the real solution.
HT: How much has hemp-based building technology and science changed during your two decades in the hemp building business?
JH: I see three stages of change. First, Yves Kuhn observed decades ago that hemp can only be merged with natural binders to produce its real advantages, and he was right. In the second stage, from roughly 1998-2010, the industry stepped in with ready-made binders. These were not natural and contained cement and consequently all the advantages of hemp were lost.
    In all humility, I must say that Hemp Eco Systems was a leader in the third stage by rejecting cement and hydraulic lime and opting for pure lime that would give the client a super natural product that would continue to carbonate and give the best thermal insulation, humidity control and an alkaline interior. To us, this is the absolute optimal situation for building materials. While we won first prize in a bio-materials competition last year, I’d say the greatest prize is when the lady of the house says: “Come in and enjoy the wonderful air in our house. We never realised it could be so good!”
    It is also encouraging to see the worker onsite claiming that he has never worked with such easy-to-apply and worker friendly building materials.

HT: Please talk a bit about hemp and the EU. How do you see the levels of awareness and support in the European Commission for hemp farming and for levelling the playing field for hemp as a building material?
JH: I do expect hemp cultivation will grow. It has a very fundamental positive impact on land and nature. On the other hand, I do not expect much from the authorities. On the question of nature and ecology, politicians will not react before it is too late, so I am of the conviction that all constructive initiatives will have to come from the people, from the industry, and from individual leaders who have the profound understanding that if we are going to avoid an ecological disaster which could well mean the end of our existence as a human race, systematic and organised action has to be taken in all fields.
    With our initiative, we may not change the world, but we can set an example and show that it can be done.
Going from highly polluting and energy consuming building materials to materials coming directly from nature, little energy and carbon negative is a big step. But to appreciate this you have to think beyond money and market share.

HT: What’s ahead for Hemp Eco Systems this year?
JH: We’re expanding in Europe, the US and Canada this year. Quantity expansion is not our style. Quality expansion is. All our affiliates in Europe and overseas will make sure that the quality and uniformity of our products and services is constant and guaranteed. We expect the new training centre we are planning near Antwerp to help put this philosophy into action.
    We are encouraged by the financial help offered by the government of the Canton de Vaud in Switzerland as well as the government of Flanders. Investors have been invited to participate in our capital and we have been able to choose from amongst interested parties that have a direct interest in our activities worldwide.
    However we expand, we always see our management as the key to success. I have to say that they constitute a wonderful, close-knit team. Each manager can subscribe to a reserved part of our capital and all are members of an upper council that decides on our corporate objectives and policies.
That way, they help us share our know-how and fulfill our mission to integrate authorities, architects, builders, entrepreneurs and the public in a common drive for the good of nature, and for all of us.

Hemp Consultant and Developer – France
Pierre Amadieu is a hemp consultant and developer. He has worked in local hemp economic development projects, designed and built small-scale hemp decorticating lines, and created a mobile decorticator. In addition to project management, he is a hemp growing and harvesting trainer, and is experienced in organic methods for hemp farming.

HempToday: What do you think are the key challenges to popularising hemp around Europe — among the public, among building trades professionals, and farmers?
Pierre Amadieu: The price, the price, and the price.
Hemp house owners would pay a lower price if tax policies were in place that gave incentives for insulation made of renewable materials, for example. Setting fair building regulations for competition between renewable and traditional materials also affects the price of building. These regulations are generally unfair now.
    For farmers, they need to see the potential that they can charge good prices for their hemp yields. This can happen when they turn themselves into entrepreneurs and work with other entrepreneurs setting up locally organised growing and processing operations. It’s also important that they reach out to the agriculture community.
    Then, there’s the price — investment costs — associated with knowhow, methods and the equipment needed to launch a flourishing local hemp business. This is where the entrepreneurial spirit must play a role.
    In fact hemp won’t get popular from the top down. I see it becoming mainstream through many, many distributed local projects and businesses in which close partners can work toward profits, yes, but also towards the environmental and social benefits.

HT: How would you summarize the hemp growing and building industries in France at present? What do you see as the most interesting initiatives?
PA: Hemp crops are on a gentle growth trend in France, as is the use of hemp in building. Neither got the boom in development they were expected to get before the 2008 financial crisis because worries about the environment and renewable solutions took a back seat to broader economic concerns. And we should remember that the building industry is still suffering from investment fears.
    It’s important to note that in the last 10 years, two different models of hemp businesses developed: farmer-oriented localized initiatives, and industrial-scale hemp operations. These industrial processors met more difficulties at startup because of the huge challenges to getting competitive at scale. But the local projects start gently and safely, thanks to their low investment needs.
    France has a background of 50 years of industrial hemp growing, and 40 years of experimentation and R&D in the field of building. Different entrepreneurs are developing blocks and prefab materials. Those things are set, and will help the French hemp building industry rise as real estate in general gets going again. But we still need more favorable building regulations and tax policies that incentivize and promote the development of distributed hemp businesses.

HT: What’s the potential for such localised hemp growing and processing networks to contribute to rural development across all of Europe?
PA: It’s not that easy to scale up to 28 countries. There are big differences from one country to another regarding agriculture and building. Still, when people see shared interests and are given the incentives and the tools to create something, nothing is impossible.
    So why not forecast a marketshare of 10% for renewable building materials, excluding wood, with hemp as a leading material? In 10 years? What a huge market it could be. And what a huge reduction of  CO2!
    There is good will all across Europe among farmers, entrepreneurs and builders who want to use hemp for its wide range of qualities. I know from experience that it’s hard in a competitive world to launch such a business from nothing. But there is a lot of activity out there and many dedicated people putting businesses and projects together.
   For example, I’m working with some friends, experienced hemp stakeholders, on a collaborative and distributed open-source project that will guide entrepreneurial efforts to set up local hemp operations and get flourishing quickly. This project is called "Initiative Chanvre” (The Hemp Initiative) and we’ll be putting out some more news soon.
   But generally with hemp across Europe, the industries will either be developed around distributed local networks or industrial operators. I see the real potential — for business and for the shift from a fossil-based to a renewable world — in distributed networks as opposed to large-scale operations.

HT: How do you see the hemp bio-composite and hemp food markets shaping up? What do you expect to grow among bio-composites, food, construction materials, oil, seeds, etc? In France, and in Europe generally?

PA: Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibres in the world, and easy to grow, but most of processing plants in Europe are destroying its quality. So without a dedicated process to decorticate hemp we’ll never get the highest added value from our fibers, such as they do from flax, for example. As long as the hemp industry sells in bulk, we’ll play a supporting role in fabrics and biocomposite reinforcements. There is and there will be a market for such low-quality fibres but it is a low margin market.
    Food is really interesting, and it’s quite easy to get into for farmers who are organized; however, this is mainly a market for certified organic products. Hundreds of tons are imported from China, so there is actually a great opportunity to produce hemp seeds for food, but it’s always necessary first to establish preliminary business relationships, set specifications and try to forecast sales.
    For feed, as a conventional crop (not organic) there is also an interesting market, especially for birds. I think there are about 6,000 tons imported from China each year for this purpose.
    To get a reliable value chain where all the actors have good incentives — especially farmers — it is absolutely necessary to get fair added value from each byproduct of hemp: shivs, fibres, seeds. Even the dust from decortication should be exploited.
    In my opinion, fibres and shivs for insulation and building, and seeds for food, oil and cosmetics look to be the more reliable and cash-producing markets for a local business in the early stages. Animal bedding and mulching are mainstream outlets for shivs, for example.
    Biocomposite products like mats and compounds are generally dedicated to the automotive industry and therefore more industrial in scale. But this business may also eventually be destined for a more distributed market structure.
    My analysis here is basically true of France and Europe. However there are lot of regional specific features that determine the particular type of hemp industry that may succeed in any given place. We’ve got different regions like Europe’s auto industry basin; and then there are local considerations like weather, consumer attitudes to food and health products. And local taxes and regulations may dictate development choices and business models. Anyway, each local project shouldn’t be based on "what are my markets?" but "who are my clients?"

HT: How did you first get interested in industrial hemp?
PA: I was raised on a farm in southwest France. Once when I was about 10 years old, I found in my Grandma’s attic a bag full of very, very long hemp fibres that were more than 70 years old. What a surprise, what a great discovery! For me, it was a magic moment.

Managing Director/Greencore Construction– UK
Ian Pritchett is managing director at Greencore Construction Ltd. in the UK. A physics graduate from Durham University with over 25 years experience in historic building repair and eco-buildings, he previously was managing director at both IJP Building Conservation, and Lime Technology Ltd.

 That’s Ian’s hemp home!

HempToday: The Marks & Spencer Chesire Oaks project was revolutionary in its use of hemp in a large-scale project. What were the lessons learned, and how does the market shape up for the future in this sector?
IP: The project was a great success. It demonstrated that off-site panels are the best way to deliver fast track projects for mainstream clients. The independent post occupancy evaluation (POE) showed that the store used 60% less heating energy than predicted. It is unique to have such a large (positive) performance gap, but we need to find better ways to accurately predict thermal performance in order to convince others of the benefits of hemp construction.

HT: Can you describe the basic value chain through which you get Greencore products and projects into the commercial pipeline. If we start with hemp in the field, how does it get to you and how many steps and parties are involved in getting the product to market? Where do you source your raw hemp material?
IP: We buy our hemp shiv in the UK, mix it with UK produced lime and cast it into our Hempcell panels. We sell these directly to the end user, so it is a pretty short chain. In some projects Greencore Construction is the end user when we are developing sites for sale.

HT: How do you talk about the value proposition of hemp-based projects with your clients? Surely it’s more expensive. Or maybe the question is: what kind of clients are drawn to hemp?
IP: For us, the client is the most important person in any project. We look for discerning clients who take an holistic view of the build cost and will later benefit from the comfort and energy savings. It is more difficult if the client is only interested in the lowest construction cost. Our clients are looking for comfort, health, low energy bills and low embodied carbon.

HT: You have experience in historic building repair. We’ve seen some restoration projects around Europe that employ hemp. This would seem destined to always be a niche market, but how is hemp comparing to use of other materials in such projects?
IP: Hemp-Lime has two important markets in the historic building repair world, where it can demonstrate superior performance. First, infill panels in historic timber framed buildings. It is easier, faster, cheaper and better insulating that the traditional “wattle & daub” of the past. Second, for use as internal wall insulation (IWI) on old masonry buildings. The hydro-thermal properties seem to completely eliminate the risk of interstitial condensation, which is a big risk with other forms of IWI.

HT: Similarly, what about hemp as a material in retro-fit?
IP: Hemp-Lime is less practical as a retro-fit solution for newer buildings, because of the thickness required and slow drying time.

HT: You pioneered the use of lime mortars in the new building sector. What’s the market status of lime mortars among alternatives these days?
IP: Lime mortar in new buildings is still a niche market, but it is a significant niche and it is no longer viewed as unusual. There are now well over 1000 new buildings built with lime mortar in the UK; many bricklayers are familiar with it and it is routinely specified by architects for new masonry buildings.

HT: What’s the status of hemp growing in the UK. The EIHA reported 160 ha. under cannabis sativa in the UK last year, mostly by small farmers. What’s the outlook for expanding hemp agriculture in the UK?
IP: It is a small but growing market. Unfortunately the UK market suffered a significant set-back when Hemp Technology went out of business at the end of 2013. It will take time for the UK to get back to the same area of hemp cultivation.

HT: How do you see the situation with certification for hemp-based building materials? Is there progress at the EU level developing proper standards?
IP: The development of any standard takes many years and costs a lot of money. We will have to be patient about the creation of new standards. In the mean-time we may see some hemp products gain CE marking under current standards. We are in the process of CE marking our Hempcell panels under a standard that will be published soon.

Designer & Builder/Cannabric – Spain
Monika Brümmer is an architect specialising in hemp building, ecological and bioclimatic buildings, historic restoration and rehabilitation of traditional cave dwellings. She is the inventor of Cannabric, hemp-based building blocks which have been manufactured at her facility in Granada since 1999. She is also a globally recognised consultant in hemp and other eco construction.

HempToday: Cannabric offers a wide range of hemp building materials. Which are the most popular products (bricks, panels, insulation, etc) among those in your product line?
MB: In Spain where my company is located and where I started producing hemp building materials in 1999, there was a long period during which new construction was dominating over refits and restorations. Hemp can be applied in the whole “envelope” of the building. In new construction all kind of hemp building materials, from bricks for load-bearing walls and internal divisions to insulation mortars for slabs and plasters and flexible insulators based on hemp wool for roof insulation are applied. This way I´m able to place 100 kg of hemp per constructed square meter. Since the start of economic crisis in Spain people came back to do refits, where insulating mortars find wide application to improve thermal and acoustic performance. Regarding new construction, the pre fabricated products I developed are intended for cost-saving housing in developing countries and for application in large scale buildings.

HT: How would you describe the demand for these products in recent years? Is there an upward trend?
MB: The building industry is in hands of lobbies that push non-natural materials which use high energy to produce and are expensive to maintain and recycle in the future. But generally green-building is on the rise to meet the global need for energy-saving buildings and healthy living in general.

HT: How do you see standards developing for certification of hemp building materials in Europe? Are there enough laboratories/researchers carrying out this work? How long does it take to get a product certified, and what are the key considerations that go into certification evaluation?
MB: Standards are acceptable when there are no economic interests behind and as long they don’t create new restrictions. The laboratories are not so much prepared to test hemp building materials because the standards for testing are based on conventional building materials and not always compatible. Testing a product according to basic building standards is not such a large process, but is never enough for large scale building. Also, certification is not viable for the small scale producer, so it means a big handicap in the start-up phase.

HT: How do you see the trend for hemp use in historical preservation? Is that part of the industry growing in Europe?
MB: I´m not aware this is a trend, but hemp has very interesting possibilities in historical preservations. The use of hemp plasters and hemp slabs is the best solution in this context . It is not only technically compatible with historic preservation in terms of material but also offers thermal advantages when applied to the inside of a building when the facade of the building is protected. Hemp is light weight, so it doesn’t damage the existing structure and doesn’t add loads.

HT: To what do you attribute the lack of knowledge/use of hemp as a building material among more mainstream builders? What are the keys to stronger business relationships among hemp building product producers and, for example, commercial construction firms?
MB: It’s mainly a lack of information. But it’s also because architects and builders have enough opportunities in conventional building. I try to make an effort to promote hemp by doing conferences and workshops.

HT: What exciting hemp projects are you currently working on?
MB: I have a few small scale hemp projects running in Spain, some of them very interesting, like a copula building for musical events. But with the general lack of worthy opportunities in Spain in recent years, I’m working on some international calls. For example, I practice with several European universities based on my investigation into hemp building materials. Apart from this I do product development and knowhow transfer on an international and intercontinental level, doing all I can to accelerate hemp building projects on a global scale. The most difficult, thus exciting, project where I´m involved since end of 2013 is the architectural and environmental development of an area in North Africa where illicit hemp has been grown since the 7th century.


Founder/International Hemp Building Association

Steve Allin pioneered the International Hemp Building Association (IHBA).  An author, teacher and consultant on ecological building, Steve has promoted the use of hemp in building in Ireland and internationally for many years, and continues to teach and lecture worldwide on the subject of hemp building.

Q: EIHA reports 17,523 ha. planted in 2014, but from what we can tell that’s not reflecting total European area under hemp last year. Can you reflect on that figure? How do you see the growth trend for hemp farming?
Steve Allin: The EIHA like the IHBA does not have everyone involved in the industry as members; however I think they would just be quoting EU figures which would include all licence production unless it was too small a quantity to register on graphs. I know that Albert Dunn of Dun Agro planted 10,000 hectares this year.

Q: Taking a historical and longer-term perspective, where would you say the European hemp building market is right now on the trend line?
SA: Expanding but somewhat slowly still.

Q: You’ve said growth of the hemp building industry is a chicken-and-egg kind of thing. What’s the key to driving demand?
SA: Acceptance of the benefits by mainstream builders, which includes an understanding of natural materials, which are not understood by most modern professionals. Also bringing cost down with local materials.

Q: Do you feel current EU and national laws are essentially sound and present no major barriers to hemp building industry growth? Are there any key policy or legislative frameworks missing?
SA: Production of hemp has no problems in countries that have approved growing. National and local building regulations can be a real problem with any new technology and are causing problems in some countries such as Ireland and the USA right now.

Q: Which area would you predict will see the fastest growth for hemp building over the next five years: self-build, single dwelling, industrial, commercial?
SA: Not sure about these areas but the one that needs to expand is domestic retro fitting or renovation projects, as we have so many homes that need upgrading to use less energy.

Q: In some of EIHA’s latest figures, 15% of shivs produced are going to building materials, with the bulk going to animal bedding. Can you give any insight into how this vital resource is being used now?
SA: Maybe slightly higher use in building now but (animal) bedding is still the biggest.

Q: What would you say is the most recent exciting development, product or project based on hemp building materials?
SA: Ian Pritchett of Greencore Construction in UK and Monika Brummer of Cannabric in Spain are the most imaginative developers, and Pascal Favre of Arbio in Switzerland builds some of the most amazingly finished buildings. I am more interested at the moment in Third World projects such as Hemporium in S. Africa and my own project in Haiti. After all, the real need for housing people is not in Europe or the USA.



Henri Puttonen is the initiator of “Hemp for Green Industrial Revolution,” a crowdfunding campaign on fundedbyme.com aimed at encouraging more growth of hemp in Europe, which, in his opinion, may only happen once Europeans start premiering hemp textiles. Henri is the marketing director of Hampakompaniet – a Sweden-based hemp textile distributor.

Q: Less than 20,000 ha were grown in hemp in 2014. Certainly Europe consumes much more than that, if you consider European automakers are using approximately that amount. How does the European market look in terms of demand for hemp fibres?
Henri Puttonen: As can be seen from the annual report written by EIHA, the main markets for hemp fibre in Europe today are specialty cellulose (for paper production), insulation products (mainly small housing) and biocomposites (mixed with plastics to make a sturdier material). Comparing this information to the annual report from Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, one will notice that hemp cultivation in Europe experienced a sharp decline between 2009-2011 – from 14,600 to 8,000 hectares under cultivation, after which official statistics collection stopped.

Q: Where do you source the hemp fibre used by Hampakompaniet? What are the factors that go into your decision making regarding your hemp suppliers? How do you select them?
HP: After receiving no answers from several dozen European companies I contacted regarding procurement of hemp yarn and fabric, I decided to buy it from China, the world leader in hemp textiles. Choosing a supplier today is very easy – you have very few suppliers to choose from, and all are Chinese. The demand from European industry is there, the supply is simply not. Why? It is too expensive to produce hemp today. Too few organizations are willing to pay more than they are already paying for equivalent raw materials, and they want in fact to pay even less. I know of several well-known multinational corporations that are interested in hemp, but the price for raw materials is simply too high. Some might say it is a problem, but for Hampakompaniet this is a great opportunity for innovation in the industry.

Q: What would you say are the key opportunities to drive more hemp farming and processing in Europe?
HP: While hemp shiv will be most valued in hempcrete, as it creates probably the greatest value for the shiv, it also gives a good price to the farmer. On the basis of shiv sales to hempcrete construction, one could already start building the cultivation of hemp. It would be wonderful if all regions in Europe would have their local hempcrete builders and I really wish everyone working in this direction all the best in developing it further – quicker, faster, stronger.
    While hemp shiv will be most value in hempcrete, the fashion, interior and technical textile markets are the ones that could in a short time swallow immense amounts of hemp fibre, should the price be right. As noted before, the technical textile market is struggling. Hampakompaniet’s mission will therefore be to try something new – to develop the fashion and interior textiles side of the industry, by motivating Europeans to buy hemp textiles and offering the most attractive hemp textiles on the market: stylish and affordable. Our start is humble – finest hemp t-shirts on the European market, manufactured in Europe, for the best price available.

Q: Aren’t hemp-fibre-derived materials much more expensive than those made of other materials?
HP: They are right now. However, this will change shortly after millions of Europeans start buying hemp textiles, as the potential for hemp cultivation in Europe by far outweighs both flax and cotton. Any good novation will always find people who are ready to pay the premium, which is where one must start – to find the right niche. Combine the right niche with hard work, constant lowering of costs while retaining quality, and you will eventually reach mainstream.
    Most people simply do not know that hemp, also known as cannabis sativa, is Europe’s most important textile raw material. Most organizations are afraid to associate themselves with cannabis in any way and this is where Hampakompaniet goes against the current – we build our image on the basis of championing cannabis sativa as the main raw material for Europe’s textile industry. Our team consists of hardworking, competent, creative and law-abiding people, and we have therefore no fear in regards to playing our part in the creation of the great future held in store for cannabis in Europe. We’re pushing forward, regardless of any difficulties.

Q: How does it look in China for hemp growing and processing?
HP: The Chinese army actively supports hemp cultivation and processing, I think that should explain all.

Q: You still have 38 of 45 days left on your Funded By Me project. How much money are you trying to raise, and when’s the deadline? How’s the campaign going?
HP: Several organisations have already shown interest in long-term, scalable cooperation and we wish to find more partners to work with. The aim is to raise Euro 42,200 by March 19. I would very much appreciate any and all help I could get and encourage everyone reading this article to become acquainted with the campaign.


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