As cannabis goes mainstream across the Wall Stree Journal and the world at large, the industry is undergoing a transformation. Specific aspects of the industrial cannabis "hemp" sector are dependent upon a supply chain that is missing in action. Until recently, the entire stigma surrounding cannabis "marijuana" and "hemp" has prevented the development of modern machinery to make full use of the crop.
Now that has changed
Take your wildest dream... and imagine it as reality. Blue Sky Projects are just that; shooting for the moon, having a vision of the future. Seeing something new. All advances in human civilization come from such things. Let's chase an alternate reality. One where industrial development occurs on slightly different basis: Is it sustainable? Is is ecological? Is it the best long term solution we have? In the very recent past, our civilization had the opportunity to follow one of two paths: 1. Petrochemical technology or 2. Agricultural chemical technology. We chose the first for a variety of reasons... none of which adhere to a Sustainable Vision. Changing course at this time is critical to our planet & humanity, you know, our children. All of the Blue Sky ideas listed below impact multi-billion dollar industries. Manufacturing, Construction, Concrete, Fuel, Chemicals, Plastics and Carbon technology.
This is a game changer and we are at the turning point.
Blue Sky Project #1: Harvesting Equipment Infrastructure in the industry lags behind other agricultural sectors. For example: 'combine fires', where your harvesting machinery (combine) bogs down, jams and then the plant material (etc) catches fire. Processing equipment to separate cannabis foliage, seed, stalk & the subsequent fibre decortication is required. Industrial scale oil, fibre & waste processing (plus logistics) are needed to push the sector forward. Companies involved in manufacturing farm & processing can gain market advantage in the cannabis sector. Substantial capital costs are required for Canadian & US industrial development. Certain companies have invested in this area in Europe where textile applications are growing. New investments are coming into Canada where we have more cannabis production. Suitable equipment is key to industrial agricultural solutions.
Blue Sky Project #2: Construction Materials Large scale fabrication of construction products is key to driving demand. Rapid turn-over crops like cannabis provide raw source stock: various grades of fibre are used in paper, wafer board, shingles, insulation and hempcrete. This last section works as a low-tech high-use operation. It is not a structural concrete material - more similar to building blocks. As the concrete industry is a major contributor to CO2 emissions, this sector would serve a dual purpose - with benefits. Particle board manufacturing plants require $170 million capital cost investments. Pulp & paper mills using cannabis require fewer chemicals to produce higher quality fibre than trees and impacts multi-billion dollar markets. This segment also requires large scale capital investments. Spin off: affordable housing.
Blue Sky Project #3: Bio-fuels Processing facilities for bio-fuel production require massive amounts of “waste product”. Trading fuel for food is not a logical trade-off in achieving energy independence. This segment has the potential to reach $185 billion within a few years. Treating agricultural waste as the source material changes the equation. One logistical nightmare (mentioned above) which must be addressed is the transfer of bulk product, which is normally burned or tilled back into the soil, to the processing facilities. Early projects in these two sectors discovered that farmers were not equipped to transport large amounts of “waste” material. Locating bio-fuel plants near agricultural production and transfer facilities, like DuPont’s new ethanol facility in Iowa, is part of integrated design required in this area. Side note: Tilling excess ‘waste’ material into the fields breaks the soil cycle. Using this biomass is a much more intelligent solution. Spin off: energy independence.
Blue Sky Project #4: Bio-plastics Industrial plastics are used in a vast array of products. Across an amazing range of sectors, plastics are used virtually everywhere. It is responsible for 500 billion pounds of plastics produced every year. On the other hand, most plastics don’t break down very well. Recycling efforts are doing a poor job of capturing and reusing plastic materials. Petrochemical plastics contribute more to long term pollution. Here bio-technology is making advances. Bio-degradable plastics are in production. This one sector has reached nearly $4 billion in 2014. Manufacturing plastics out of cannabis oil feedstock changes the equation to a more sustainable loop. Research into creating bio-plastics using methane also shows interesting promise. Investment in this sector requires similar logistics as the other large scale projects listed above. Spin off: reduction on petrochemical oil sources & plastic trash reduction in our rivers, landfills and oceans.
Blue Sky Project #5: Carbon Technology The Big Ticket Item: Research & development in this arena is proceeding at a very rapid pace. Carbon based technology has the potential to impact several significant and large industries across a wide spectrum. Food, water, shelter, energy, materials, electronics and a few more. Since the discovery of graphene about 10 years ago, this area has proceeded to yield far reaching applications. Recently the EU and the Chinese have begun to invest VERY heavily in carbon/graphene science. It is a ‘leapfrog’ approach - adopting the latest technology changes the future energy & materials needs of developing countries. The science is proceeding rapidly to industrial applications, even as we are talking about it. Sourcing carbon and graphene-like materials from agricultural material reduces costs and pushes forward a radical new carbon-neutral civilization. Spin off: Type 1 Civilization.
A strategic change to the elimination of fossil fuels, advanced land management and capturing carbon on a global scale presents the only solution to climate change on the horizon. What I want to know, is when are the thousands of organizations, environmentalists, research scientists and corporations going to figure this out?
Next: A 10 Year Cannabis Plan
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