Industry Players
 

Jacques Martin, President of the CCPS, producer based in Louresse-Rochemenier (Maine-et-Loire).

“We have cultivated hemp on the polyculture-animal rearing side of the farm since 1976. My father was offered a contract for 2 or 3 hectares. Since then, we have expanded the cultivated area to the current 18 hectares. It means we have an additional crop we can use when rotating cereal and fodder crops, especially in plots with higher levels of humidity where we can only sow in Spring. Its short lifecycle (from May to September) fits well with our work organisation. However, contrary to industrial hemp, seed production requires a more technical approach. The low sowing density requires meticulous weeding beforehand and we need to keep a watchful eye out for plant pests until plants have reached a height of 20cm (3 weeks after sowing). Also, during the three to four week flowering period, extra labour needs to be employed to remove the male plants in order to have the highest possible purity.”

 

Stéphane Supiot, producer of seed near Saumur (Maine-et-Loire)

For the past 20 years, I have been producing hempseed, harvesting an area of 23 to 25 hectares. It requires a completely different approach to industrial hemp. We only sow 1,2kg/hectare (instead of 40 to 50 kg/hectares) with a gap between rows of 75cm (instead of 12 to 15cm) to make hoeing and other soil maintenance easier - the low density of crops means they can’t crowd out any weeds. That’s why I hoe the soil two to four times starting very early on. Plant pests are also a problem with these crops if they start attacking plants at an early stage. During the flowering period (from late June to the 30 August), male plants need to be removed manually every two days so as to only keep the monoecious plants (plants with both male and female sex organs). September harvest is conducted with a silager. The average yield works out to between around 1.1 and 1.2 tons per hectare. Seed at 25-30% humidity are dried on the farm for 24 hours until they reach 9% humidity, then stored in big bags of 1.3 tons until the cooperative can come and collect them.”

 
 

Anne-Marie Nuyttens, associate of Planète Chanvre, hemp processor based in Jouarre (Seine-et-Marne)

Looking to diversify, satisfy regional demand, respond to societal expectations and start an agro-industrial adventure, 12 farmers associated themselves to found Planète-Chanvre in 2007. “We created a new area of production, cultivation having no longer been practiced in Seine-et-Marne. This plan would also meet local government needs following a development initiative launched at the national level (Plan de Développement Economique Local) to dynamise the local economy. We had to produce the hemp, convince around one hundred farmers to join the project, then process the hemp on site. We invested ourselves as well as financial assets into the project and were able to complete a fibre processing unit, which would allow us to supply the construction industry. It was the first of its kind in France, since it involved relocating a German factory and unusual management! Since 2011, Planète Chanvre processes 1000 hectares every year, employs 14 workers and carries on taking up the challenge of growing the eco-construction sector in the Paris area, in collaboration with the Construire en Chanvre Ile de France association.”

Link: http://www.planetechanvre.com

 

 

Dominique Briffaud President of InterChanvre and farmer based in Vendée

I’m always looking for crops that are found off the beaten track, and so in 2008 I decided to take the plunge and started producing hemp. Since 2009, CAVAC, of which I am an administrator, via its subsidiary Cavac Biomatériaux, has produced local hemp-based products for the construction industry. I was curious to follow a journey which would take me from field to end product. Today, I harvest between 7 and 12 hectares of hemp. As president of InterChanvre, as well as the organisation of producers which supplies CAVAC, I represent them on the board of directors of Cavac Biomatériaux in order to act as liaison between production and processing. Cavac Biomatériaux tell me what they need in terms of straw quality, and we work out what can be implemented on the cultivation side of things to get there.

I really wanted to walk my own talk, so I built my house using end products: hemp concrete (made of water, lime and hemp hurd) for the walls and floor underneath the tiling, hemp hurd and lime for the floor under the wooden flooring and for the roughcast in the bedrooms. In total, I used 15 to 16 tons of hemp hurd. For the roof tiling, I used rolls of hemp fibres on 75% of the surface area of the roof. This means humidity inside the house is at 50 to 60% when it’s at 90 to 95% outside. Even with the temperature at 18C, it’s not cold! This means I save on my heating bill. The walls also have excellent sound proofing. In terms of how much it cost me, on average it worked out to 1700€/m2, which according to the artisans I worked with is around what you would expect for this kind of project.”

 
 

“Hemp is an alternative to raw materials of petrochemical origin, with the added advantage of being annually renewable and recyclable at the end of its lifespan. For example, in the automotive industry, injection moulded hemp fibre is lighter and cheaper than glass fibres since crude prices rose; it’s a market with potential. Developing this market will require time however to convince players involved at each stage of production. Another potential market with multiple uses, but still at an R&D stage in France: hemp based bioplastics, made with hurd (hemp straw). With the depletion of petrochemical resources, demand should grow ever stronger. The use of hemp fibres as an insulator, of hurd in hemp-based concrete for construction, fibres as a reinforcing agent for the automotive industry or even hurd for horticultural mulch are all promising potential markets, as well as retail markets for hempseed, a source of protein and omegas, especially the organic variety.”

A large percentage of these markets aren’t yet connected to the mainstream retail sector, however individual industry players are all bringing a decent amount of value to the end-product.