Industrial Hemp for Bio-based and Fossil-free Future

The SHI – Swedish Hemp Industries aka Svensk hampaindustri in collaboration with IHFS – Industrial Hemp Association Sweden, HoH – House of Hemp Sweden and EIHA – European Industrial Hemp Association organized its second annual online conference on Industrial Hemp For Bio-Based And Fossil Free Future” on 5th May 2021. The conference was held with the ambition to inspire new bio-based and fossil-free market segments contributing to new research, innovation and transformation of industries. The moderator was Clara Norelland, the co-producing team: Peter Holmdahl, Mari Elfving and Helena Wellbergh. 

The conference was very well put across virtually even in the times of pandemic. There was a line-up of global leaders, researchers and lighthouse projects from the billion dollar hemp industry. Though the conference was focused on Sweden, there were more than 300 hemp enthusiasts from around the globe who attended the conference and gained knowledge from Swedish hemp entrepreneurs, researchers and non-profit organizations who are working towards the development of industrial hemp. The emphasis was to discuss the capacity of industrial hemp to help shift the economy and environment with different kinds of innovative bio-based materials/applications that are produced while working with industrial hemp. The environmental benefit of industrial hemp is its effectiveness of CO2-sequester as it grows, creating circular bio economy business models. The speakers and hemp leaders shared different experiences, achievements and ideas, where all 17 sustainable development goals within Agenda 2030 of the United Nations would be targeted directly or indirectly through these bio economy business models.

The conference started with an interesting question,

“Why don’t we grow more hemp?”

Industrial hemp is an agricultural and industrial crop producing highly nutritious food as well as sustainable carbon neutral and bio based materials while improving the soil and absorbing up to 20 tonnes CO2/hectare. Backed by research, hemp is the most impactful and resilient industrial purpose and agricultural crop on this planet but it still lies in the grey area due to lack of awareness, undefined areas of law, no standard system of governmental regulation etc.

The conference was divided into 4 different parts, spread across a live streaming of 8 hours, with speakers excelling in different areas of the hemp industry. Participants from the following sectors were a part of it: 

  • Carbon Dioxide Neutral Building Industry 
  • Agriculture 
  • Natural Fibre Industry 
  • Architects, Designers, Engineers
  • Food and Feed Industry 
  • Traders and Investors 
  • Research and Development

The aim was to get to know the pioneers of the hemp industry and learn from their experiences. The areas covered were: Global Outlook, Sweden Food Arena, Textile, Nature is high-tech: Building and Collaboration. 

Global Outlook of The Hemp Industry

The world today is an increasingly interconnected global community. It is important to develop the knowledge, skills, and values to live and work in a global economy. There were different speakers from around the globe, invited with a purpose for a global outlook :

  • Steve DeAngelo, a lifelong activist, author, educator, investor and entrepreneur who goes under the nickname: “The Father of Legal Industry”;
  • Ms. Kimberly Kovacs, CEO of the Arcview Group;
  • Francesco Mirizzi, Senior Policy Advisor of (EIHA) European Industrial Hemp Association;
  • Ms. Maren Krings, climate impact storyteller, photographer and author.

Ms. Kovacs discussed her journey in the cannabis industry, wanting to help create a legal market, be the forefront of change and make people aware and invest in the hemp industry. She states,

“Cannabis is not just marijuana but a holistic plant with CBD, hemp, industrial hemp, hempcrete, textile, housing, food and more.”

Her way to look forward in the hemp industry is through investing in a consistent supply chain, technology, carbon negative strategy, subsidizing farmers and making a profitable market for them giving overall development. She further states, “A standard regulatory framework is required for a holistic growth of the hemp industry.”

Mr. Mirizzi talked about the environmentally friendly nature of hemp, and stated, “Hemp is the real green deal when compared to the synthetic fibres in the market.” Defining his ambition Mirizzi states, “The objective is to make the cake and just not get the biggest slice of the cake”. Mirizzi feels that the pandemic is the right moment for the hemp industry to grow as due to Covid-19 locally produced material and supply chain is the need of the hour. Mr. Mirizzi mentioned that they have a group of more than 300 companies working in the hemp industry in the field of science, technology, agricultural practice, communication, advocacy and collaboration. The EIHA represents the interest of hemp producing and processing companies. Its primary objective is to monitor EU hemp policies and to provide EU decision makers with accurate and reliable information across different spheres of competencies. 

Maren Krings is a german story teller, photographer and an author. She stated that she had travelled to 26 countries covering 4 continents, documenting the worldwide rediscovery of hemp, photographing more than 200 projects, interviewing more than 80 industry experts. She spoke about her HEMP BOOK, which will be published soon, offering an emotional narrative from scientific data and real events. With an environmentally friendly approach she stated, “The book is being printed on hemp paper and it shows many ways hemp plants are being used to mitigate the socio-ecological crisis.”


Hemp Industry and Sweden Food Arena

Hemp is discussed as the world’s most attractive food and drink product which could be used to create a new business model for competition food innovation. Next was Sweden Food Arena, Kerstin Erikssson, Innovation Leader. Kerstin stated, “It is understood that the generation today is ready to give money on sustainability, and hemp based food could be one of them. Today’s generation should focus on developing food with lesser carbon footprints, plant based proteins and is sustainable. Along with food habits a food sector system needs to be developed which is : 

  • resource efficient; 
  • with operational excellence;
  • block chain technology;
  • smart industry;
  • stability;
  • refining the waste; and 
  • working in the AI industry for being self-dependent.”

She ended with a note to take steps to develop the hemp food industry, resource maximization, system perspective and development.

The Prospects of Hemp in Textile Industry

The next speakers were from the textile industry. The speakers were 

  • Maria Brosson, Buying director fashion industry and textile hemp enthusiast; 
  • Bodil Engberg Pallesen, Specialist Technologist Institute; and 
  • Helena Wellberg, IHFS, Industrial Hemp Association Sweden. 

Hemp is being considered as an innovation game by the fashion industry. The impact of the hemp based textile industry could be developed only when we reduce, reuse, recycle textile and also rethink the process of textile development. It was discussed that to close the fibre gap in the industry, the price for fossil based polyester should be increased as the biggest enemy of hemp is not cotton but polyester. There are various benefits of the growing hemp textile industry which comes with various challenges as well. Hemp fibre is one of the world’s strongest fibres, having high quality textiles,  sustainable and breathable clothes. But at the same time the industry is niche and unexplored with lack of adequate machinery, investments, and knowledge of the industry. 

Nature is High-tech: Building With Hempcrete

The most interesting discussion was on hempcrete on Nature is high-tech: Building. It was arranged by House of Hemp Sweden and L’Ecole Nationale de Chanvre. There were so many interesting and knowledgeable speakers from the industry being :

The discussion started with Alexander Landborn, asking an important question,

“Whether a carbon free construction is a dream or reality?”

He stated an affirmation as to

“Building green starts with a dream”.

It is believed that innovation can be brought only when you dream big and work hard on your dreams. Further he focused on hempcrete structures and fitting, how hemp can change the environment you live in, due to the fact that hempcrete is a carbon neutral architecture, hemp fibre insulations are 100% recyclable, friendly towards climate, energy, health and economy.

Peter Holmdahl, co-founder House of Hemp Sweden left a huge impact as he mentioned his work towards building schools with hempcrete, with no use of fossil fuel based construction material, building a sustainable and environment friendly place for students. 

Martin Erlandsson, from KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He is appointed as an adjunct professor of building materials with a focus on life cycle analysis methodology along with climate positive wooden housing. He pointed out at increasing afforestation and reforestation and stated, “I hope to be able to contribute towards assessing environmental performance with scientifically robust methods for research as well as education.” His study is focused on hybrid solutions of environment friendly material as well as using steel and binders for concrete for reaching a more sustainable building development. 

Remi Loren, referred to as “Super Entrepreneur ” for his green and sustainable building technology company Ekolution, spoke about the benefits of using hemp for improving the climate, health, economy and energy.  He talks about his work in Ekolution for hemp fibre insulation which would be the first EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) -certified construction insulation of hemp fiber to report a carbon dioxide negative result. Remi left an impact on the audience by asking the question “why don’t we think more about the health and indoor climate of our housing when we spend more than 90% of time being at home?”.

Simon Nilsson, Structural Engineer H22 and Co-owner of CM Byggkonsult spoke about building carbon neutral architecture and states waste hierarchy as “Prevention – Preparing for reuse – Recycling – Another recovery – Disposal.” 

Paulien Strandberg-de Bruijn, Ph.D. Division Building Materials, Lund University, her main area of work is the renovation of historical buildings with lime and hemp. Talking about the renovation of historical buildings Pauline stated how use of sustainable materials like lime and hemp for building material improves the energy performance and preserving the cultural heritage of structures.  

Collaboration in the Hemp Industry

The last segment of the conference was about different member-related collaboration platforms around hemp, bio-based and fossil-free industries and how we can work together to drive change. The main speakers were : 

As Clara Norell rightly stated, “Hemp is the answer to many of the societal challenges experienced by countries in different ways and levels. If every country would cultivate hemp and have a process and supply chain around it -I believe we could change the world.” 

The conference was meant to lay the foundation for listening to and learning from each other, paving a path towards a better world, where the innovation of today can be the leading factor of tomorrow. People from all walks of life shared their experiences of how they changed their dreams into reality, growing together with sustainability towards a greener and healthier world. The intention to organize such conferences is to put a mark on the thriving global market and to showcase the potential of Swedish countryside, agriculture, food, construction and textile industry surrounding industrial hemp.

Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Advocate working towards social upliftment and sustainable development. Here to gather knowledge and write.

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