Understand your plants and have a backup plan or two.
It’s not a small number, the people hoping to learn and grow with industrial hemp. That was true in 2019 and it will be just as true again through 2020. One of the biggest lessons the entire industry learned during the 2019 season is to have a back plan ready. And maybe even a Plan C. And D.
By this point, it’s not a secret to anyone in this industry that hemp is a complex plant. It behaves differently than any other crop on the planet. Some growers learned that the hard way last year. It’s harvested wet and must be dried. This can wreak havoc on traditional ag equipment that wasn’t designed specifically to handle these plant conditions.
The plants are very delicate, and the more they’re handled, the more they’re likely to lose oil content. This can happen quickly. Like other crops, the plant must be broken down into various products and by-products if you want to maximize your revenue. However, listing the number of ways people are trying to break it down and separate it would take no short amount of time or energy.
The plant requires particular conditions for successful operations. Yes, hemp can grow in all 50 states and many countries around the world. That said, there is an unlimited number of variables growers must be prepared to address if they want to experience a successful hemp harvest. Those include obvious factors like moisture level and plant conditions, but also less obvious factors like humidity, wind direction and speed, air temperature, building effects, wildlife, etc…
Here are a few examples of customers who handle difficult and unexpected situations well in 2019.
Poor Growing Conditions
One of our customers experienced poor growing conditions last year that had a significant impact on the growth and development of their plants. Originally, they had plans to harvest plants whole and extract oil through a local extraction facility. When the weather and growing conditions didn’t pan out according to their plans, they switched gears and sold their plants to be used for smokeable flower. This was not in their original plans for the year and it meant letting some of the equipment they’d purchased go unused and sitting idle. However, understanding the complexities of this plant has allowed them options to move forward with a successful 2019 season behind them.
Getting Creative with Equipment
Another customer, an extraction facility, was planning to rely on a single piece of equipment to filter and separate fiber biomass from flower biomass. What they quickly learned, as did almost every extractor, is that biomass from farmers will come into their plants in an incredibly wide variety of formats, quality, size, etc… This extractor both learned and acted quickly and figured out a backup plan for additional equipment that would allow them a significantly better biomass separation process. In this case, it meant using a BudRubber on chopped biomass material even though the machine was originally designed for whole plants.
We’ve been chatting with another grower who had an early contract that put them in a great position for selling biomass post-harvest. (Our last lesson learned article discussed having such purchase contracts in place. Click here to read it.) When the market dropped last autumn, the contract fell through. Fortunately, these guys had a good Plan B at the ready. They salvaged some revenue, and their operation, by selling their crop to buyers looking for smokeable products.
In the end, this industry has a lot left to learn. Good, bad, or otherwise, education is often expensive. What’s proven to be a smart choice is to have a primary plan of attack, and a few back up options ready as well. Weather, market conditions, grower skills and sophistication, climate, wildlife, and other factors can all derail or impact plans during the growing season. It’s in everyone’s best interest to work together, learn together, and have a few creative options in their back pocket should environmental factors challenge our original plans.
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