If Henry VIII had been asked where he saw hemp’s future in society, the king would have assumed it was an integral one, as such a versatile crop. Little did he know the route history was to take when he decreed it compulsory to grow hemp in 1533. Under Henry and his daughter Elizabeth I, farmers were to produce a quarter acre of hemp or flax for every 60 acres of land. For these monarchs to envisage an era of hemp stigma and prohibition would have been insane.
What about all its great applications? What about our sails, fishing nets, rigging and clothes?
Hemp’s dark ages appear to be slipping away. A new aeon has arisen, and hemp holds more leverage than ever. From textiles, car parts and insulation to food supplements and regenerative farming, hemp’s value is only increasing. Hemp’s rise is particularly prevalent in construction and agriculture, which are key contributors to climate and environmental crises.
Finally, the UK appears to be showing signs of significant action. A new ten-year plan to exponentially increase hemp production in the UK has won government support! Hemp-30 is a project run by the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) at the University of York.
“The key objective of the Hemp-30 project is to catalyse a major expansion of the breeding, growing, harvesting and utilisation of industrial hemp as a UK crop through the 2020s and 2030s”.
Successfully applied Hemp-30 will increase UK biomass production, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As this sector grows, polluting industries, particularly construction, can be phased out. Widespread use of hemp will also improve biodiversity, soil health and increase nutrition value of other crops. Currently, hemp production covers about 800 hectares. Hemp-30 aims to increase this to 80,000.
Experts across many different fields have designed this action plan. Together their design encourages people to enter new jobs of increased value, both to the economy and the environment. One example is Azotic Technologies Ltd (ATL), which has collaborated on this project to improve hemp resilience. ATL produces “nitrogen-fixing bacteria products… reported to reduce synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use by 25-50% while maintaining yield”. As global agriculture sustainable solutions, companies like ATL require more skilled individuals with a spirit for tackling the climate crisis.
Does Hemp-30 hail a transformation in other industries? Within the agricultural realm, this seems likely. The growing hemp market is that of hemp proteins, expected to have more than doubled by 2027.
The future is bright. The future is hemp!