February 28, 2014 4:32 pm
Updated: February 28, 2014 6:07 pm

Growing hemp on Alberta farms


Farmers are growing more industrial hemp each year. The markets for industrial hemp are also growing as people who attended Farming Smarter’s annual meeting at Ag Expo in Lethbridge learned.

Five years ago there were 8,000 acres of industrial hemp. This year the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance expects 100 thousand acres with about a quarter of them in Alberta.

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“It’s a really dramatic increase,” said Jan Slaski of Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, “with this increasing acreage driven by the market which demands more hemp products.”

Canadian farmers have been allowed to grow industrial hemp since 1998. The level of THC is within acceptable limits. Hemp grain is used in food while hemp fibre is used in construction materials, textiles and many other things. Farming Smarter plans to research hemp at both irrigated and dryland sites in southern Alberta.

“We want to be able to provide information to farmers so they can grow it properly and hopefully make some money doing it,” said Farming Smarter manager Ken Coles.

Two fibre processing plants are being planned in southern Alberta.

“Such a facility requires around 30 million dollars to put up,” said Jan Slaski. “It will be processing 50,000 tonnes of fibre per year to generate bio building materials that will be sold in Canada and the United States.”

Many farmers are looking forward to growing industrial hemp.

Grain producer Andy Kirschenman said, “It takes some risk but I think if we start slow and we can have some scaleable plants as well as production, it has a very good option in southern Alberta.”

Slaski says hemp benefits more than farmers, creating businesses, jobs and boosting the economy.
Last year Canada exported more than 40 million dollars worth of hemp products.

The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance says industrial hemp is one of the most profitable crops farmers can grow generating gross returns of about 700 dollars per acre.
It’s asked government to deregulate the crop by putting it under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the federal agriculture department instead of Health Canada.

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