Industrial hemp is now legal in the United States, thanks to the passing of the 2018 farm bill. With legalization comes a boost in hemp farming and the technology behind it. Some bioscience firms are already changing the way farmers think about planting their crops.
1 – Pathogen-Free Plants
On the front lines of hemp agriculture are several bioscience companies that are changing the way the industry thinks about hemp cultivation. Bioscience companies help produce pathogen-free plants for growers of high-quality hemp.
These technology companies also have breeding programs to select for the highest quality plants. These breeding programs look at the underlying genome of the hemp plant to create improved varieties. It’s not much different than many companies have done with rice and wheat.
2 – Clean Stock Nurseries
Clean stock nursery programs are an extremely regimented breeding program for the hemp industry. A nine-stage process is involved with growing hemp in lab-tested and controlled environments. The plants that survive this regimen are the most profitable hemp plants a grower could want. Disease outbreaks can devastate whole fields, so creating crops that can survive these outbreaks is necessary.
3 – Genetic Seed Screening
While much of the clean stock nurseries revolve around growing plants, only the seeds that survive genetic screening are planted. Hemp biosciences companies can sample DNA from seedlings and look for specific markers or combinations of markers for traits.
4 – Manufacturing Changes
Many new technology companies are developing new machinery for hemp manufacturing. These machines separate raw hemp into fibers, leaves, and hurds. These separate pieces can then be used to manufacture a wide array of products, from clothing to fuel.
Hemp manufacturing is a booming business as these companies work on new ways to process the plant. Hemp pump, lignin, flowers, sugars, and seed oil can all be useful. Many scientists believe cellulosic ethanol produced from hemp may be more carbon-neutral than corn-based ethanol.
5 – Paper
Hemp could dramatically change the paper industry, too. It takes around 80 years for a tree to mature enough to be useful for making paper. Hemp stalks only take around four months to grow. It is easily replantable and grows very quickly. An acre of hemp could produce as much paper as four to ten acres of trees.