One of the materials with the most opportunity is the hemp fiber. Hemp fiber comes from the stalk and is the long strands on the outside of the stalk, these fibers are course and are similar to jute or burlap in texture when raw. Rope and Canvas are two typical products people recognize as historical fiber products. However what if we told you that it can also be used to make concrete, t-shirts and textiles, car batteries, or what about circuit boards. Hemp has been illegal for 80 years and manufacturing processes have developed greatly during that time period. Hemp Fiber in the suture will be a sustainable option for many new products.
The current thing keeping fiber from being the front runner in hemp production is research and infrastructure. We will require new mechanized options for harvesting, and decorticating (removing the fiber from the center of the stalk (hurd). These machines in the future will resemble all the other agricultural equipment on the farm, however it takes demand for larger companies to invest in the research to develop these machines, as well as farmers doing in field research to figure out the methods and equipment needed for efficiency.
Current product development changes quickly, and so does the opportunities for the fiber and hurd. Farmers need to consider value added processes when looking into the fiber market, shipping the raw material in stalk form (non-decorticated) is expensive, processing facilities or buyers are not around the corner just yet, and reaching them sometimes is not profitable in smaller quantities. Pairing with smaller research projects, and university projects can sometimes be just as profitable and these programs are great for development of local industry.
The research is usually based on local companies or industry needs, and sometimes the projects can translate into a profitable contract farming opportunity for the farmer. With a certain strain experience or a value added process as part of the opportunity it may give the farmer a front row on the product development and even additional revenue during training processes for new farmers as the program size increases.