What looks like wood, acts like wood, but is ready to harvest in six months? Move over hardwood, here’s hemp wood.
It’s time to introduce the United States to a new renewable resource — HempWood. The company behind this revolutionary building material bills the product as the most eco-friendly timber product on the market today. It’s not hard to see why, with such quick-to-harvest growth cycle. If HempWood products take off, we could see hemp — not oak — as the hardwood floors of the future.
Hemp is already used as an alternative building material – but HempWood is offering something different. Using technology pioneered in China, this relatively small start-up company based in Kentucky is banking on the application of hemp as a building material. While China developed the technology for use with bamboo fibers, Kentucky is working it into hemp.
Revamping Ancient Techniques
Originally, Chinese technology combined bamboo with a binding agent, to produce robust and long lasting wood-alternative products. HempWood is taking this technology to the next level. Fibonacci, the company behind this innovation, combines hemp fibers and stalks with a soy-based glue. The final product is harder than oak. Oak, a sought after hardwood tree, takes sixty years to harvest. Hemp, a fibrous plant related to cannabis and now legal in the U.S., takes just six months. Not only is the turn-around time between planting and harvesting in hemp’s favor, but the final product is reportedly twenty percent harder than the oak.
Fibonacci is setting up production in a small agricultural community in Kentucky. The owner of Fibonacci, Greg Wilson, has spent most of his career turning unconventional natural materials into workable eco-friendly building solutions. Early on, he learned the process while working with bamboo. He learned how to turn fast-growing bamboo into environmentally friendly flooring products. Pulling from his knowledge working with bamboo, he founded another company in Australia called SmartOak. Smart Oak turns waste wood products destined for the wood chipper into useful flooring and other building supplies.
Now, after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, Wilson has shifted his attention to the potential of the hemp plant. Beyond the economic opportunities the crop provides, hemp is also a valuable crop for environmental reasons. Hemp products, like Hempwood, are biodegradable, renewable, and non-toxic. Research also shows hemp is a valuable biomass material, capable of capturing large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere.
Kentucky Ready for Hemp Boon
Kentucky is welcoming hemp production, including Fibonacci’s HempWood product, with open arms. Dr. Tony Brannon, of Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture, has worked with Wilson over the last year before Fibonacci’s startup. According to Brannon, “(Wilson’s) sustainable work with hemp fiber further helps us build out the growing and processing platform, making Kentucky the epicenter of agricultural hemp. The Center for Agricultural Hemp at Murray State University is pleased to provide continuing assistance with this opportunity.”
Officials from all levels of government came out to support Fibonacci during a recent press conference. This included, state Governor Matt Bevin, Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, Representative Larry Elkins and local Mayor Bob Rogers. In Kentucky, there is excitement in the air about the potential of hemp to turn around a slowing agricultural industry.
Hemp Wood Patent Ready to Pay Off
Fibonacci has been working hard over the last few years to build connections in the Kentucky community where they have chosen to establish the production facility. Their patented HempWood product is going to use locally sourced hemp. They plan to hire at least twenty five employees, and when all is said and done, will have invested $6 million into the local economy.
Murray, the community Wilson choose to set up production, already cultivates 40,000 acres of hemp. The local economic development organization is helping Fibonacci get off the ground with a substantial tax incentive of $300,000.
Hemp wood comes at a time when hardwoods, like oak, are increasingly a premium product. Steadily, eco-friendly and more affordable products like bamboo and hemp are making inroads into the hardwood. The US federal government has finally clarified the rules about growing, selling, and producing hemp products. Now hemp is taking off across the country.
Wilson has planned the launch of Fibonacci well. He is combining his decades of knowledge of consumer building products, and his intimate connections in the industry into a timely eco-friendly product. HempWood is well placed to make Kentucky an epicenter of hemp production.