2019 Hemp Harvest Predictions
With so many questions still floating around in the hemp industry, many are looking at the 2019 hemp harvest for answers and ideas. There are many making big plays and others hedging their bets. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it’ll be an interesting ride. As we round that final corner, here are five predictions for the 2019 hemp harvest.
Farmers Carry Shipping Costs
As is common in agriculture, farmers end up harboring most of the risks and carrying most of the expenses related to producing their crops. That includes shipping costs. While that doesn’t necessarily seem illogical, what might be is the material those farmers are actually shipping. With many hemp varieties averaging around 50% fiber, those growing for CBD oil extraction, for example, are at risk of doubling their shipping costs simply to ship low oil content fiber biomass. Combine those extra deadweight shipping costs with the fact that growers can get as much as 10-15x more money for separated biomass vs whole plant biomass and it makes a very strong case for farmers to separate biomass on the farm in an effort to reduce shipping expenses.
Unused Fiber Leaves $$$ In The Field
There is no small number of options for how we can use hemp fiber. Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to fiber processing solutions. With the high demand for smokable flower, high oil content biomass, and seeds for propagation, fiber will continue to remain the unsung hero for the 2019 hemp harvest. Processors and contractors are showing up across the globe, but the amount of fiber biomass will outpace functional consumption this year. Look for that to change in the coming years as more local solutions pop up and follow large-scale growing operations around the country.
Handshucking Woes Continue
Until recently there haven’t been much for scaleable shucking solutions for hemp growers. Those that understand the value in separating biomass were forced to settle for unreliable and inconsistent manual labor to divide biomass. Large amounts of manual labor will be contracted as a best-case alternative for growers looking to prove the viability of growing hemp. Veteran growers are shifting their attitudes on this front and opting for more efficient solutions, but look for early-stage growers to continue hand shucking for another year until more machinery use is adopted.
Recycled Equipment Shows Mixed Results
In an effort to make the most of their valuable crops, but restricted by a lack of dedicated solutions for hemp, growers will continue to recycle existing agricultural equipment. Combines, thrashers, stripper heads, and a number of others will continue to be modified by farmers in an effort to design homegrown harvesting solutions. There is no shortage of videos and photos online of modified equipment. As with most cases, many of these ideas look good on paper or sound decent in theory, but see mixed results when they hit the field. Hemp is tricky to deal with considering the wet noodle like behavior with high moisture and the hard woody center. Both of which can be brutal on traditional agriculture equipment.
Extractors Desire Refined Inputs
With the massive increase in hemp biomass availability, extractors will very soon begin increasing their requirements on quality biomass. Some of this has already started. No longer will extractors accept biomass of all varieties and types. Higher oil content, fiber-free biomass will soon become the standard by which all growers are judged in the eyes of processors. One of the requirements for consistent downstream processing will be improving the upstream processing and separation of biomass. Until improved upstream processing with on-farm capabilities becomes more broadly adopted, processors will have to work hard to maintain consistency of both their inputs and outputs. The good news is, solutions do exist. But broad-based adoption will take 12 months or more.