Farmer Education

Spent Biomass

For all the pounds of hemp we extract to get our CBD oil, those pounds of hemp have to go somewhere. Currently we pay to have this plant material taken away. Our end goal is to for somebody to take it away for free weekly. Then our ultimate end goal is to be paid for our spent biomass. 

Once we reach capacity we’ll have about a 40 foot container of plant material that needs to be removed weekly. Here are some ideas and please fill out the form below if you would like our spent biomass.

Animal Feed:
The first use of spent biomass will likely be for use in animal feed. Being heavily composed of cellulose, spent biomass will be used for feeding ruminants and partial-ruminants, and there will need to be regulatory clarity from USDA as well as state agencies before approval can be granted for feeding as hemp products are still not approved for use in animal feed ingredients. Colorado started a research program two years ago for spent biomass, but the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry (ODAFF) still lists no approval for use in commercial animal feed.

On the Colorado Department of Agriculture  website, the following statements have been made about the use of industrial hemp in animal feeds. “Currently, industrial hemp is not an approved ingredient for commercial feed. The use of an ingredient or feed additive that is not pre-approved can result in the feed being considered adulterated and not allowed for distribution in Colorado or other states.” Further, the CDA stated that the, “CDA does not approve registration applications for commercial feed products that contain industrial hemp since it is not an approved ingredient recognized by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO, an organization of state agriculture departments from all 50 states) or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine.”

Cellulose Biofuels:
We’ve also heard and have had several inquiries about hemp for cellulose ethanol production. Because hemp plant matter has extremely high cellulose content, using it as a feedstock for ethanol could be another valuable application. But the economic viability of cellulose ethanol has yet to be shown on a significant scale as extensive research and development is required.

In addition to feed and biofuel applications, additional secondary markets such as hemp paper have begun to enter the market due to relatively low barriers to entry. In some cases, hemp processors have entertained removal of spent biomass for free or at little to no cost, which has enabled these companies to cut costs associated with research and development and increase scales of operations.

Hemp Stalks:
Most of the CBD strains currently approved for production are bred with genetics conducive to oil production and not necessarily fiber. Producers and processors vying to strip the flowers and leaves off of the main stalk to produce a shucked biomass should at least explore the opportunity and viability of using the stems for fiber and hurd production. These two applications have received significant media attention as of late, but commercial scalability is still in early stages.

Fibers for Textile Production:
We’ve had a handful of conversations about a market for hemp fibers as an ancillary value stream. The commercial scalability of companies currently producing textiles from hemp fibers won’t be able to handle the volume, and vast variation from many farmers brand new to the plant. While this is certainly a long term proposition, for this year, producers could start to explore the potential for partnerships with fibers, but significant value add could be challenging.

Hemp Hurds (shivs) for Hempcrete:
Hemp hurds or shivs contain a high amount of silica, unique to the hemp plant, allowing them to bind with lime to produce a lightweight, high insulation value construction material, and has been used in Europe, particularly France, for many years. Hemp hurds are likely in the same position as fibers. In the early days of these ancillary value streams before efficient markets develop, building early relationships around additional value streams could pay off in the long term. While there might not be the same immediate value that the CBD aspect of the industry will bring, spent biomass is likely to be the most viable in the near term as it will be widely available due to increases in processing capacity throughout the country. Fibers and hurds have potential, but because commercial scalability on the buy-side has been slow, and the huge variation in the supply stalks, these markets are likely to develop over time.