Humans have known the value of hemp for thousands of years. It’s one of the earliest plants cultivated, found in an archaeological dig in Japan dating from 8000BC. The Chinese used it to make clothes, shoes, ropes and paper. In medieval Germany and Italy the plant was cooked in pies and boiled in soup, and the ropes on Christopher Columbus’ ships were made of … you guessed it.
That was then, this is the future. Dave Jordan, chief executive of Hemp Farm NZ, says the number of products that can be made from hemp fibre is mind-boggling.
“The building you’re in, car you drive, fuel, clothes that you wear, carpet you stand on – everything around you can all be made of hemp.
“The fibre industry has huge potential to fill gaps around bio-mass requirements. Hemp produces over four times the amount of fibre as pine tree forests over the same length of time, so the opportunity is immense.
“Future generations are going to have the benefit of this. Making those things out of hemp creates economic opportunities, locks up carbon from the atmosphere into product, and it’s a safer product that doesn’t use chemicals.”
You might think the idea of a hemp car is a pipe dream, but it’s already been done. Henry Ford built a hemp car in the 1940s, Jordan says, but it was taken off the road because steel and oil companies said it would ruin them.
Nowadays, the bodies of cars are made from hemp, interiors and door panels are made of hemp. They are stronger, lighter and block up carbons from the atmosphere.
The latest BMW is made from hemp composites and Tesla is starting to look at hemp, Jordan says.
That’s only the start. The immensely strong plant fibre is used in furniture and fabrics and can be used in road and building construction. “Wherever they use cement, we could use hemp,” Jordan says.
Like to learn more about this wonder plant? Visit hempfarm.co.nz