According to a US Hemp Corp, in 2017 23,343 acres of hemp were cultivated that year across the United States. In 2018, that sum swelled to 77,000 acres. There are few (if any) agriculture sectors that are growing at a comparable rate and farmers have a new opportunity to grow a renewable crop with high returns. As the industry grows the stigma of hemp also is beginning to disappear and uses for hemp products continue to be explored. With rapid growth there is a demand for industrial scale harvesting and production equipment. Corbett Hefner – Vice President R&D for Formation Ag joined us to explore the industry, the machinery they have developed, and the product itself.
Harvesting fibrous crops is difficult without the right equipment. It is a “sticky” product so regular equipment cannot harvest or produce it.Formation Ag engineers and fabricates harvesting and processing equipment for hemp crops. Over the last several years they have worked with farmers to develop cost-effective and cutting-edge technology to make crops such as hemp possible at an industrial scale.
Wrapping, jamming, and damage to the product are common problems that require specialized equipment to solve. Although small scale machinery has been developed, before Formation Ag there was little to no product that could harvest hemp on an industrial scale, taking away the opportunity for hemp derived products to be competitive on the market. Their hemp harvesting equipment is now in full production and Corbett say they are even back ordered now, that is the result of having one of the few fully tested and produced machines and of course the demand of a rapid growth market.
Once harvested, processing hemp is still a major challenge. The Formation Ag’s Fiber Track separates hemp fiber and hurd faster than one ton per hour with a trailer-mounted mobile machinery. These kind of products are what farmers need if they are going to truly make hemp an industrial scale product. As an example 77,000 acres of hemp produced in the United States last year pales in comparison to the millions of acres of corn grown across the country.
Hemp can be used in everything from paper to skin cream but there are still bottle necks. Methods for growing hemp is well established, companies like Formation Ag are helping find solutions to harvesting and processing. The next step is efficiently producing products (such as paper) at competitive prices. The growth of the hemp industry is only starting, because when you have a renewable product that has potential to compete in multiple markets the opportunities are endless.
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