VISITING FARMERS IS THE MOST BEATIFUL PART OF MY BUSINESS
World cannabis in 2015
PRESIDENT, SOUTH HEMP TECNO srl/ITALY
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?
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.
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?
HT: Can you talk about the growth outlook for your company? What do you expect over the next three years.
HT: What lessons were learned through the Assocanapa economic study that looked at the potential for the hemp industry in southern Italy?
HT: What is your personal hemp history? When did you first get involved with hemp, and who influenced you along the way.
INTERVIEW: ANNDREA HERMANN
THE RIDGE INTERNATIONAL CANNABIS CONSULTING 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?
HT: It seems the broader economics of hemp as a general building material are a bit challenged. What’s the key to boosting demand?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
HT: What’s ahead for Hemp Eco Systems this year?
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?
HT: How would you summarize the hemp growing and building industries in France at present? What do you see as the most interesting initiatives?
HT: What’s the potential for such localised hemp growing and processing networks to contribute to rural development across all of Europe?
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.
HT: How did you first get interested in industrial hemp?
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?
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?
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?
HT: Similarly, what about hemp as a material in retro-fit?
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?
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?
HT: How do you see the situation with certification for hemp-based building materials? Is there progress at the EU level developing proper standards?
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?
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?
HT: What exciting hemp projects are you currently working on?
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.
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?
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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