There are many ways to grow a weed, and cannabis is no exception. With the boom of cannabis cultivation in the past 5 years, the cannabis industry is arguably the fastest growing industry in the United States with a gross market of 6 billion in the last year. Almost all of this market whether industrial hemp or recreational cannabis within North America is grown for its flower. Industrial hemp is predominantly only grown for flower which is a tiny fraction of the entire plant and its total biomass. It is an industry standard practice to just compost the remaining ~90% of the plant, leaves, stalk and roots all just thrown on a compost pile. It is one of the many wasteful practices of the industry at this point in time and is even more regrettable when you consider that cannabis produces some of the strongest natural fiber plants can offer.
As far as why almost no one is utilizing the stalk of the cannabis plant is just due to processing hurdles. The majority of not just hemp but all natural fiber production in the world aside from cotton is produced and refined in Southeast Asia. The reluctance in the US and Canadian market to engage in fiber production and focus on the CBD and flower market makes sense but is leaving a significant amount of capital on the table. The projected CBD market in 2019 is only 1.2 billion according to Hemp Business Journal, the hemp fiber market annually is estimated to be 700 million with only two American companies processing hemp at any scale. This number although small has the potential to vastly increase as both infrastructure is built to process fiber and new uses for fiber are utilized in the market. Creating innovative new applications for this fiber is one of the keys to helping the market take off both in the US and globally.
Since the conception of Planet-3, hemp fiber has been at the forefront of our minds, finding new solutions to old problems while utilizing an underutilized resource and cutting down on waste as much as possible. According to our research, cannabis fiber can be utilized much like other natural fibers. One of those many uses is in the soil media and soil substrate market. Why not grow cannabis, in cannabis? One of the most utilized soil medias in the cannabis industry is Coco Coir, a coconut fiber-derived soil substrate mostly utilized for indoor cultivation of cannabis and other high-value feed crops. Coconut Coir has two major problems in our eyes, it is not domestically produced and it is very unsustainable to harvest and process, not to mention ship. Most coconut fiber is made and processed in Asia. The coconut tree plantations that are required for this use an immense amount of water and land to produce a relatively small amount of fiber which is only found on the coconut itself. The biggest problem, coconuts only grow in a specific climate primarily between the 20th parallels under specialized environmental conditions. Hemp grows pretty much everywhere from Canada to Australia; you can grow cannabis outdoors even if for a limited season. Coconut trees take 4-10 years to mature hemp/cannabis takes 70-90 days from germination to harvest. So why not make an American-produced, sustainable product that is cost competitive and better for the environment.
One of our latest tests compared cannabis germination in different medias like paper and hemp. We were excited to see the results of germinating seeds in refined hemp fiber as compared to other methods. The experiment was to measure time and size of germinated seeds using a different germination media, a industry standard paper, and a new comer hemp. Our results showed you can definitely germinate cannabis in cannabis fiber. How exactly the fiber stands up to other methods will be analyzed in future testing, but this is a great result for our sustainable mission.
The cannabis industry is wasteful, on both the consumer and cultivator side. Environmental innovations can bring the cannabis industry into a natural, sustainable ecosystem, and Planet-3 is determined to continue pushing the industry in that direction.