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A supply chain assessment and development for hemp bast fibre in the non-woven and technical textile industries. - NF0616

Forward thinkers and administrations realize that renewable materials must be found and developed to enable the creation of sustainable industries to replace existing reliance on finite oil and other ecologically suspect production methods and resources. The DEFRA document A strategy for non-food crops and uses - creating value from renewable materials was released in early November 2004 by Lord Whitty. The document concisely states the current situation and is a cogent plan. The single biggest factor, which hampered the development of the hemp industry, has been "RETTING." This is the process of the uncontrolled breakdown of cellular materials, pectins and gums, which bond the hemp fibres and wooded centre together. It is traditionally performed either by laying the cut crop on the ground for between 3 and 12 weeks or by placing the cut plants in lagoons. This process is time and resource dependant and it depends on the environmental conditions, which do not lead to reliable results, to ensure that climatic conditions are conducive to a successful "retting" process. It is also worth noting that failure to ret - if using traditional methods - can mean part or total failure of a crop, if the weather conditions are not consistent as has been the case for the last two UK seasons. This concern is reflected in the DEFRA document's strategic point number 60. The application of this new technology produces a much broader range of fibre products because there is NO RETTING. The fibre yield is dramatically increased. The improved fibre quality and consistency allows for a broader range of industrial and apparel uses. The hurd - wooded plant centre - is also in a condition, which is far better suited to industrial uses. This new hemp fibre needs to be evaluated across the whole range of existing hemp uses and then tested for new applications beyond those that were possible with the inferior retted hemp product. Hemp was the most traded commodity in the world for many centuries. Universally grown and produced hemp fibre was replaced by cotton when Ely Whitney developed the cotton gin in the US in the 1800s. In Europe local production of basic fibres for industry and apparel were replaced initially by imports from half way around the world and more recently by synthetic fibres created from finite sources of oil. E.g. Nylon. Hemp provides Europe with the opportunity for a locally grown fibre source. The strategic benefits of locally grown fibre for industry cannot be underestimated.The hemp industry is an emerging industry in Europe, but it lacks both a basic and an applied methodology for extracting the fibre and regulating its processing standards. Worldwide there is a lack of basic knowledge about converting hemp fibres into consistent quality and cost competitive products. The main objective of this grant is to provide an analysis of the hemp fibre bast supply chain as an industrially viable non-food crop. The purpose is to provide an environmentally friendly, consistent and cost competitive fibre source for a diverse range of markets in the UK and Europe. The project will be implemented in three stages: One: completion of a supply chain analysis for a new UK hemp fibre industry; Two: completion of a case study to demonstrate the application of innovative technology and novel agronomy from the farm to a finished product; Three: the implementation of supply chain assessment by developing a 'rollout' scheme with the industry partners to deliver new viable materials to a sustainable market. It is to this end that Eurofibre in collaboration with Springdale Crop Synergies has compiled a consortium of industry partners and universities to identify the range of constraints and market demand which a robust UK supply chain for hemp must understand to be successful in today's market place. The ability of universities to provide an independent third party view across a large number of industry partners and end markets, strengthens the outcome of the results of this supply chain analysis.The results from this project will provide industry with a 'green', competitive, locally produced fibre source that can be applied across a diverse range of industry and markets. For example, The Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data will be gathered in on-site research during 2005 to characterize inputs and outputs for the novel and innovative (non-retting) 'green' against the 'conventional' (retting) decortication methods for hemp. This will enable comparison of the relative environmental impacts and new products of the novel green technology to be compared with those of conventional decortication and current approach and preparation of an appropriate environmental statement of environmental benefit offered through the new green decortication route. The LCI data will be used with existing and new data to develop LCA scenarios to exemplify environmental benefits offered by green decortication in typical hemp-based products. The LCA will be a valuable addition to the EU database being developed as part of the overall DEFRA strategy. And: The agronomic data and methods will be useful to improve and develop the rotational limitation of UK farming and climatic variations. The extremely dry summer season of 2003 and the wet summer season of 2004 have proven there can be no fibre quality consistency with conventional retting methods. However, the innovative non-retting method can eliminate this effect of weather and provide an industry viable and consistent hemp fibre product year in and year out. The results will also provide government with a better understanding of how to maximize rural and industry strategies to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits while also providing a positive direction to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This will play its part in the secure creation of sustainability for the limited and finite farmland resources.
The objectives of this project are to create a Supply Chain Analysis (defining methodology) and to demonstrate (via Case Studies) the positive impact that innovative technology and novel agronomy can have on a non-food fibre crop supply chain.The aim of this project is to provide a system which will assist current fibre markets and future markets to embrace this environmentally sound and renewable resource that can be utilised locally or exported.

· To produce an overview of the UK (& Europe) bast fibre supply chain and to include the barriers to market, current successful pathways, regulations, state of technology and knowledge, environmental impacts, core markets and resource management. A key review point will be the state of decortication technology in the UK (and Europe).
· To preliminarily review the approach of the four case studies. Collection of data will act as the reference points in the analysis of each study.
· To develop contacts across the supply chain, not yet represented in the consortium, will further assist in the true analysis of market potential.

· To produce a robust supply chain analysis presenting a methodology of how data collection and evaluation can assist in the creating a stable pathway to market. To this end, the application of a LCA is extremely important.Development of LCI/LCA data
· To produce LCI data for novel dry and green decortication of hemp to include energy inputs, machinery usage, consumable parts/components, emissions to air, water, land, products/co-products/by-products and wastes in a format suitable for use in LAC work. Data collection for novel green decortication and conventional retting-based defibring will be via on-site studies in 2005, assessment of records, literature and benchmarking with established databases (re: conventional processing). LCA modelling will use the new LCI data in combination with product specific data to evaluate the overall benefits potentially offered by the green decortication approach for example product(s).
· The developed LCA data will be used to indicate potential for further environmental improvement in hemp processing and the LCA data will provide context for such improvements across the whole supply chain.

· To illustrate/ demonstrate the impact of innovative technology and novel agronomy on the success of a non-food crop supply chain.
Technology Evaluation
· To asses the proposed mechanisation system and define the experimental and statistical requirements for the measurement of the performance of the system.
· To quantify the performance of the machine as part of the proposed mechanisation system.
· To analyse the harvesting method in relation to the UK agronomic environment.
Fibre Resource Evaluation
· To assess the fibre source developed by the novel, dry and green decortication of hemp by analysis of the decortication input and output, the creation of comparative market samples for testing, review of the market acceptance/ demand and cost competitiveness.
· To evaluate post-decortication processing technology.
· To produce data that can be referred back to retted decortication by using retted fibre as a base-mark for the assessment
(3.1) Dry fibre static decortication
· To assess the conversion of un-retted dry hemp straw as a market fibre source.
· To collect data from seed through to harvest, the energy requirements for conversion, land resources, fibre quality and strength to environmental impact.
· To develop market samples for comparison and data collection.
(3.2) Dual crop static decortication
· To assess the conversion of dry hemp straw (stubble) from Finola hemp seed crops as a market fibre source.
· To collect data from seed through to harvest, the energy requirements for conversion, land resources, fibre quality and strength to environmental impact.
· To develop market samples for comparison and data collection
(3.3) Green in-field decortication
· To assess the in-field conversion of a green standing hemp crop as a market fibre source.
· To collect data from seed through to harvest, the energy requirements for conversion, land resources, fibre quality and strength to environmental impact.
· To develop market samples for comparison and data collection
(3.4) Analysis of Agronomic Principles
· To assess and develop the current agronomic principles utilised in the product of hemp in the UK (and Europe.
· To collect data and develop novel systems to enhance the quality, yield, environmental impact, rotational planning and resource management of hemp crops in the UK.
· To trial alternate varieties and planting to assist in the improvement of the above.

· To report the data and findings of the above objectives. To demonstrate the case studies and supply chain assessment in a forum of industry partners, government and environmental groups.
· To create a final review that will develop a ‘feedback’ chain to provide the primary sector with data to continually improve on the market demands.
· To demonstrate new product avenues to ‘feed’ from the hemp fibre supply chain.
Project Documents
• Final Report : NF0616 - Final Report   (1767k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 1   (49k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 2   (870k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 3   (997k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 4   (47k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2006

Cost: £247,407
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Springdale Crop Synergies
Arable Farming              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops