Hemp was always well-known for its medicinal properties and commercialized industry. It wasn’t until recent years that its economic, environmental, and nutritional values were made aware to the public.
Compared to other industry based plants and by-products, hemp is proved to be more durable and sustainable. This, along with how unchallenging, simple, and inexpensive it is to grow gives hemp the advantage of becoming one of the most ingenious resources in the economy.
The plant is remarkably easy to farm, requiring only moderate amounts of water and fertilizer, no pesticides or herbicides and requires little to no attention unlike its counterpart, marijuana which needs close attention and a stable environment. It can be grown in various climates and conditions, therefore, the ability to farm in all 50 states. This make it the ideal crop for small farmers since it is inexpensive and unchallenging.
Therefore, hemp is a cheaper alternative to cotton which is a bit more difficult and particular in its cultivation. It is also a cheaper alternative to wood as it has much lower manufacturing costs.
The plant grows very densely, so farmers are able to produce more hemp per acre of farmland. Because of this dense growth, there is less space for weeds to sprout up, reducing the time and effort that farmers spend to eliminate weeds. For example, on an annual basis, 1 acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as 2 to 3 acres of cotton and 1 acre will produce as much paper as 2 to 4 acres of trees.
Hemp fiber is stronger and softer than cotton, lasts twice as long as cotton, and will not mildew. Hemp, therefore, in addition to its inexpensive cultivation, is also cheaper than cotton in the long run regarding its durability.
Demand (Supply and Labor)
CBD, an oil extracted from the plant, is on the path to becoming mainstream, therefore, an increase in demand and profit in the years to come. With this increase, a boost in supply will be imperative, resulting in the growth in the workforce as there will be more product which will need to be handled.
Hemp paves the way for the possibility of creating biodegradable products, eco-friendly building materials, and alternative, renewable, and more efficient sources of energy/biofuel.
Conservation of Water
In comparison to cotton, hemp’s water usage is significantly better where hemp requires only moderate amounts of water, approx. <700gal to produce 2.2lbs, while cotton requires more, approx. 5,000gal to produce 2.2lbs.
Decrease in Air Pollution & Greenhouse Gases
Hemp requires only a little fertilizer and no pesticides or herbicides unlike cotton which requires large quantities, therefore it is less likely to contribute to air pollution.
One of the most fascinating environmental benefits of hemp is its ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is locked into the plant, making it unable to escape into the atmosphere to create a pollutant. Also, hemp is a very leafy plant, therefore, it emits high levels of oxygen into the atmosphere during its growth (between 20 and 40%). This makes up for the loss of oxygen when it is burnt as a fuel, which sequentially, reduces unwanted effects of global warming, acid rain and the depletion in the ozone layer on the environment.
Reduction of Erosion & Conservation of Forests
The growth and harvest period of trees for paper or wood can take years, but hemp is ready for harvesting just 120 days after being sewn. Hemp is able to grow on most land suitable for farming, while forests and tree farms require tracts of land which are limited. Harvesting hemp rather than trees would also eliminate erosion due to logging, thereby reducing topsoil loss and water pollution caused by soil runoff.
Hemp can also be used to produce fiberboard which is stronger and lighter than wood. Making hemp fiberboard an alternative to timber would further reduce the need to cut down our forests
The quality of hemp paper is superior to tree-based paper. Hemp paper will last hundreds of years without degrading, can be recycled many more times than tree-based paper, and requires less toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process than does paper made from trees.
Hemp can be used to manufacture strong, durable and environmentally-friendly plastic substitutes. Thousands of products made from petroleum-based plastics can be produced from hemp-based composites.
Similar to corn, hemp can also be converted into clean-burning ethanol fuel. Since hemp produces more biomass than any plant species (including corn) that can be grown in diverse climates and locations, hemp could potentially become to a major source of ethanol fuel.
Additionally, hemp seed oil can be used to produce non-toxic diesel fuel, paint, varnish, detergent, ink and lubricating oil.
Hemp seeds contain a protein that is more nutritious and more economical to produce than soybean protein. Hemp seeds are not a cause for concern with regards to potential intoxication. Hemp seed protein can be used to produce practically ally any product made from soybean: tofu, veggie burgers, butter, cheese, salad oils, ice cream, milk, etc. Hemp seed can also be ground into a nutritious flour that can be used to produce baked goods such as pasta, cookies, and breads.
Whilst the hemp industry continues to expand, its potential does the same giving hemp the possibility of becoming a major natural resource that can benefit both the economy and the environment.