Monetizing the Hemp Plant: Part Two

Here are a few more of the thousands of hemp-sourced products and ingredients set to fuel North American GDP as we prepare to enter a new decade:

CLOTHING and TEXTILES – Textiles made of hemp fiber are durable and resistant to stretching, holding their shape well throughout the years. Hemp clothing offers a breathable material perfect for multiple seasons (insulating during cold winter months, breathable through muggy summer times). The plant’s natural tan and taupe tones pair well with most colors, or the fabric can be dyed for a bolder look.

Tote Bags and Backpacks – Hemp fiber is quite strong (8x the tensile strength of cotton!) and perhaps the most durable of natural textile fibers. Resisting stretching and sagging, hemp textiles make for superb catch-all carriers that are often banged or beat-up.

RUGS and FLOOR COVERINGS – Non- toxic, durable and long-lasting, hemp fiber floor coverings are great for high traffic or sun-beaten areas. With just a few months to mature, hemp offers a more sustainable alternative to chemical and water-intensive fiber crops such as cotton.

FIBERBOARD – Hemp stalks contain two main types of fiber: bast, or long fibers found in the bark (skin), and hurd, or short fibers located in the core of the stem. These fibers can be used to create a mold and pest resistant hemp fiberboard that is lighter, ~2x as strong, and ~3x as elastic as wood chip particle boards.

FUEL – Organic plant matter (biomass) can be converted into a wide variety of fuels, primarily through pyrolysis, or the application of high heat with little or no air.  With a short maturation life (~4 months), effective carbon sequestration, and four times as much biomass/cellulose potential than its closest competitors (cornstalks, sugarcane, trees), hemp proves to be one of the most efficient and abundant sources of organic matter for conversion to fuel.

PLASTICS – Hemp plastics are non-toxic, biodegradable, and more sustainable than current petroleum-based methods. Hemp bio-plastic makes use of cellulose found in the stalk [bast] fibers and can even be mixed with traditional formulas for stronger composite plastic products. Standard compression and injection molding methods as well as new R&D advancements are making safer, alternative plastics feasible with a smaller ecological impact.

VEHICLES – Used for centuries to make durable canvas sails, ropes and rigging for sailing vessels, Henry Ford, (of automotive Ford fame), incorporated hemp with other plant materials to create a durable hemp plastic for the body and fenders of his early Model-T’s.  More recently, new methods of combining hemp cellulose fiber with water allows for the production of auto bodies and interior panels in virtually any shape or style, as well as scooters, skateboards, and bicycles.

Monetizing the Hemp Plant: Part One

According to statistics supplied by the Hemp Business Journal, US hemp-based product sales are on track to reach $2.6 billion by 2022 – an amount ten times greater than their 2012 level.

But it isn’t just a growing demand for hemp-sourced CBD products and other phytocannabinoids that is driving sales projections upwards.  Also ready and waiting to be monetized is hemp’s amazing arsenal of proteins, minerals, fatty acids, and fibers.

Here are just a few of the many products and ingredients derived from the whole hemp plant (roots, seeds, stalks, leaves and flowers) that are predicted to generate explosive revenues in the natural products marketplace over the next several years:

PROTEIN POWDERS and DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS – Vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters can all add a complete plant-based protein which is also rich in fiber (a one-ounce serving has ~14 grams of protein and ~4 grams of fiber). When the entire seed is used to make the protein powder, one gains many of the same perks of hemp seed oil, including 20 amino acids (all 9 of the essential amino acids), and polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

FOOD INGREDIENTS – Often consisting of the seed core (hearts), shells (hulls), and/or hemp oil, recipes containing hemp are generally rich in essential amino acids, polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6), fiber and minerals. Easy digestibility and high protein content make for a rich, plant-based ingredient suitable for many dietary restrictions (i.e. vegans, vegetarians, and those with soy or tree-nut allergies).

BEVERAGES – Hemp drinks are often derived from the hemp seed and range from energy drinks to non-dairy milk substitutes to craft ale beers.  Milk substitutes made from soaked hemp seeds contain the essential amino acids and are great sources of protein for vegans or individuals with soy and tree-nut allergies.

SOAP – For sensitive-skinned folks and vegans alike, hemp seed oil soap is particularly good for bathing because it is rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), vitamin E, and other polyunsaturated fats soothing to the skin. Additionally, hemp soaps make excellent household cleaning agents because they contain few synthetic ingredients or damaging chemicals

Cosmetics and Skin Care Products – Hemp seed oil is often used in skin emollients and lotions because it alleviates itching, irritation, and soothes dryness. Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (3:1 ratio), it also contains other key amino and essential fatty acids (polyunsaturated). Hemp moisturizers offer an effective, natural alternative to petroleum derivatives, preservatives, synthetic fragrances and dyes.

PAPER – Hemp paper has been found in China dating back to 100 BC. Both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were originally drafted on hemp paper. With 2-to-3 times more cellulose (fiber) that wood, hemp processing uses far fewer chemicals and less water. Deforestation is also mitigated with hemp inputs, as growing global demand strains the energy intensive process of turning wood pulp into paper.

DIAPERS – Although usually blended with cotton for softness and comfort, chemical-free ant-microbial hemp components boost diaper performance with about 8x the absorbency of cotton.

KeyLeaf’s “Big-Data Project” Gives Customers and Partners a Competitive Edge Questions & Answers with Dr. Rick Green

Computers and artificial intelligence are expediting productivity in industries of all types including the agri-food and ingredients industry. Dr. Rick Green, President, Intellectual Capital Generation at KeyLeaf, recently answered a few questions about the company’s ongoing A.I. project called “Big-Data”:

What is KeyLeaf’s “Big-Data” Project?

Essentially, it’s a self-directed program that records and compiles key data from all the information that KeyLeaf scientists, engineers, and operators have gathered over the company’s more than 40 years of R&D work and ingredient processing. Using this data, the A.I. program can predict which raw materials and processing methods are needed to achieve optimal health or functional benefit from any ingredient in the database.

When did the project begin?

It was around late 2016 when we started thinking about it and realized we could use a computerized program for predictive ingredient development, which entailed finding the raw material that was high in a specific protein or carbohydrate and that brought with it a unique health and wellness benefit. Around this time, we also began asking ourselves, “How do we preserve all the knowledge and expertise of the engineers and operators` who have so much ingredient processing experience? How do you transfer that knowledge to a new employee? With artificial intelligence, we realized, we could capture and harness that accumulated knowledge and centralize the data to share it with others.

How far along is the data collection?

We’ve got the program set up and we have a large plant protein database that we’ve been developing over the years containing a huge amount of data including each plant’s genetic make-up.

What other data goes into the database?

Once the raw bio-materials data are entered, the next phase is processing: what you do with one or more of those raw materials? The algorithm starts learning the processing sequence and settings, and it gives you the process parameters at which to run your centrifuges and your driers, and other processing equipment. It’s process information. What’s happening now is called “machine learning”. With information constantly being added over time, the program will learn about the best methods of processing for not only proteins, but for each different raw material and resulting ingredient. Like a brain, the program learns from the data to get better at its own job.

A.I. and machine learning have been around for a while. What makes KeyLeaf’s Big-Data program unique?

We’re extremely cutting-edge with our program as we’re not just talking about computerizing production of one ingredient or one ingredient area. KeyLeaf is using this as a platform for many ingredients and ingredient processes: and not just for food and beverages, but for nutraceuticals and maybe even pharmaceuticals.

How would you describe to clients how this system helps them?

It greatly reduces product development time and resource requirements and offers tremendous value add to our clients and ultimately the consumer in terms of health benefits.

Do you foresee a time when every food, beverage, nutraceutical ingredient is described and recorded in a database?

I believe this is the future: everything will be computer-aided and there will be databases that will be commercialized, just like buying a textbook or trade journal. You’ll get different data from different sources, and then you’ll have your own database, so you customize it, and that’s where you develop your unique intellectual property and competitive marketing advantage.

Again, I think KeyLeaf’s innovative and novel competitive advantage is that we already have a huge amount of data available, so we don’t have to build the database. And it’s not data on one product; it’s data on 30 products all going through the same processing equipment. So that gives us a very robust system. The single factor that sets us apart from other manufactures is our rich 40-year history of working with so many different types of ingredients over the years.

KeyLeaf continues to develop this cutting-edge technology and others like it so that their partners and clients can master their research and development when it comes to breakthrough ingredients.