A vision for the Canadian hemp industry: new lines, new products, more acres

Hemp fibre in bales. Photo: Valley Bio Ltd.

Canada’s hemp industry is pushing towards a whole new future, now that regulatory changes have opened up the opportunity to extract more value from the crop.

Ted Haney, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, says that the industry was built on one revenue stream, but its long-term viability depends on the ability to add more revenue streams.

Processors need a home for off-spec seed, hulls, and protein cake, Haney says, adding that these products could move into the livestock sector with the proper approvals. There needs to be increased capacity of primary and secondary fibre processing, too, and at-scale harvesting of the flower and leaf of the hemp plant for processing.

Because the industry has been seed-focused for several years, current genetics reflect that. Haney adds that last year’s regulatory change was the trigger needed to evolve cultivar development. Haney says there were at least 20 cultivars field tested this year that are on the road to registration. By 2023, he says, farmers will be able to choose from a new list of dual or tri-purpose hemp lines, ones with solid seed yield, improved CBD content, and valuable fibre.

But it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and trend lines going straight up. Haney says that there are some major obstacles to navigate in launching this industry past a one-product crop. Regulations and legislation take time and can hamper advancement. What’s more, there’s still confusion at the regulatory level in separating hemp from pot. Then there’s the finance challenge: not all lenders are familiar with the hemp industry and can shy away from farmers or processors looking for financing, simply because they don’t understand the crop.

Hear more from Ted Haney in conversation with Shaun Haney below:

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