Carbon Farming: AgTech is our Future
What is required is to capture the CO2 - from the air?
Two years ago, CO2 levels were 401ppm. Today, this has risen to 405ppm... with consistent readings according to NASA data June 2016; when levels should be dropping on a seasonal basis. Two percent per year is rather alarming.
Governments are "talking" about this issue and instituting carbon taxes. They've been talking for decades now... with few results. It is not a logical solution, to simply reduce existing emissions.... the carbon needs to be reclaimed from the atmosphere. I've reviewed several of the technology projects proposed to capture carbon. They do not appear to be large enough to make a difference. There is ONE approach that would work. AGRICULTURE: the growing of C3 crops that absorb more carbon as CO2 levels rise. Most of the crops we grow are 'modern' C4 plants. Cannabis is an ancient species that captures CO2 at a significant rate. As levels rise, the plants get bigger. Simple, really. AgTech is the only real solution on the horizon. Turning those crops into homes, products and eco-materials captures the carbon directly. Permanently. For the life of the home or product created, the carbon is taken out of the air. Hempcrete buildings would use hundreds of tons of hemp material. Each ton of hempcrete captures 1.6 tons of CO2. A micro-cellulose process, Zeoform, has been developed that does exactly the same thing. This simple technology turns hemp crops into cellulose for manufacturing: a proven, commercial application that creates value from what is now "waste". Hemp farmers and the entire supply chain benefits. Circular economy at work.
This is the time of the Perfect Storm for cannabis. Across the spectrum, people are calling for legalization. From medical cannabis to “recreational” to industrial uses – the ancient species is emerging into the mainstream. Now, medical users are looking to industrial strains for the higher CBD levels found in farm crops across the nation. The irony is that breeding low THC varieties for “industrial” uses is perfect for many medical uses.
Industrial hemp is a crop every farmer worldwide can grow profitably. Starting this year. I call this “carbon farming”. From the small 10 acre farm up to thousands of acres in the Prairies, cannabis produces seed, fibre, cellulose and leaf material; tons per acre. A “triple bottom line” as the saying goes. Taken to a logical conclusion, the concept of carbon farming could absorb ALL the CO2 we emit globally. Taken to 85 million hectares, CO2 levels would begin to drop. Year after year.
Closing the Loop. Solving the third part of the equation.
In creating solutions within the industrial cannabis (hemp) sector, the critical equation depends on separating the fibre from the core. One tough job – the fibre is strong and bonded to the stalk with lignum – same stuff trees use to stand tall in the forests.
This key step, separation (decortication), determines every other industrial application that follows. As cannabis is coming to the forefront once again, four new machine designs that improve the separation (decortication) process have been developed. Each of these efficiently separates the fibre from the core: generally a 30% fibre - 70% core ratio. Using the fibre for textiles is pretty straightforward. The core hurd produced; not as well developed in the marketplace.
Machines to use the fibre part of hemp are well developed. These produce a wide range of products: insulation, geo matting, yarn, rope, textiles, building materials and some composites. Commercial applications to use the core hurd 'waste' have been typically been animal bedding, hempcrete or absorption products. Some work has been done on chip-board and particle board panel manufacturing. Previously we've mentioned a new process, Zeoform, that uses the core cellulose from hemp stalk. An eco-material that can replace a wide variety of wood, plastic, fibreglass or composites on a local, scaleable-level. Zeoform can be produced locally without chemicals, using just plain water. This creates real opportunity and value. This closes the industrial hemp loop perfectly. It solves the Gordian Knot of the sector.
Industrial hemp can now produce maximum value at the farm level and beyond. Extending to dual-purpose crops that are grown for seed and fibre, use of the core hurd increases the value of each acre. Fibre and core markets would increase farm revenues by a wide margin. This creates an excellent circular economy beginning at the farm. This is the third part of the equation. Processing : Fibre : Core. Fibre and core cellulose production improve the returns on the farm acre by acre compared to growing for seed markets alone.
In a previous article, the Coming Age of Abundance, we talked about technology, new materials, systems and designs coming into focus that are transforming our civilization. New technologies coming into the market are making an impact that is accelerating. These range in size and capacity, but will affect everyone on our planet. As prohibition collapses, new technology for hemp processing and innovations coming into the market will make it possible to use renewable, sustainable agriculture in a sustainable fashion. Capturing carbon with every product we manufacture is a key to a circular economy. We stand at the verge of a wholesale change in our global civilization. Progress in the cannabis supply chain is essential: industry requires a steady source of supply and producers require a steady stream of consumers who want a clean, green planet. This will drive the cannabis industry forward into the coming Age of Abundance.
Said, in high tide or in low tide ~Bob Marley
~Bruce Ryan • CannaSystems.ca