06 May Hemp Is The New Oak: America’s First Hemp “Wood” Factory Is Being Built
By Richard Parks
Since the cultivation of hemp (cannabis, marijuana, pot) is now completely legal in all the 50 states in the U.S, there’s no reason for entrepreneurs not to explore the different possible uses of the hemp and its components. Hemp has both legalized medical and recreational uses, but these functions are mostly derived from the plant’s leaves.
An ingenious innovation now uses the plant’s stalk to produce wood that is said to be 20 times harder than oak.
Before the legalization of hemp in the United States, Greg Wilson was already a pioneer in the bamboo flooring industry. He founded SmartOak®, a company that engineers wood products from barely useful logs that would have been converted to chips for fuel. He is all into the wood, and as an avid entrepreneur, he’s constantly on the lookout for more marketable products in the wood business. He’s the brain behind Fibonacci LLC, the startup company that patented HempWood. The 6 million-dollar factory is under contraction in Kentucky (headquarters) where 40,000 acres of hemp is already being cultivated.
A review published on Science Direct states that 14 oak tree species are critically endangered due to the high demand for oak for furniture-making . An oak tree takes at least 6 decades to reach full maturity, while a thicket of hemp plants mature fully in 6 months, possibly growing to a density of 150 plants per square meter . Hemp plants, therefore, grow 100 times faster than oak, and despite the fact that upon finishing, the two wood varieties possess similar outward appearances, HempWood is 20 times stronger.
Hemp fibers, much like glass fiber, have a high degree of rigidity and tensile strength. Also, the use of HempWood would be beneficial to the reforestation process since it will reduce the cutting of trees for furniture and construction needs.
The finished HempWood is made by gluing together fiber strands from hemp pulp using a soy-based glue. Since hemp fiber strands are appreciably long, the manufacturing process will be based on the Chinese technology of cutting bamboo strips into long, ultra-tiny strands before interweaving them together with glue. This is an industrial process used to manufacture wood products that are more appealing to the eyes than grain-based wood.
When HempWood is commercialized, it will be used in the manufacture of shelves, cupboards, tables, boards, floors, skateboards and lots more. According to Greg Wilson, the product will be far cheaper than oak products.
The State of Kentucky is solidly behind Wilson, whereby the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority issued him $300,000 in tax incentives. There’s also a possible award of a percentage of the investment funds if the company’s performance value is high.
So, hemp isn’t just for getting high or having fun. This product will not only boost reforestation efforts, but it will also open wide doors of opportunity in the wood and construction industries. It will also take solid chips out of the labor market through the creation of jobs as the company’s wings spread. Most likely, in a few years, other entrepreneurs will buy into the idea, creating more companies, and hence, more jobs.
A win-win situation.
- Conservation and fruit biology of Sichou oak (Quer cus sichourensis, Fagaceae) – A critically endangered species in China. Xia et al. Science Direct. October 2016.
- Hemp Fiber / Hemp Fiber / Hemp Wood, Chopped. Reade.