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Designer wants Canadian hemp

Barbara Filippone dreams of the day she can do business closer to home. The president and developer for EnviroTextiles in Colorado said she would love to work with Canadians.

Canada’s hemp industry might still be in its infancy. Right now, hemp seed and oil are the hot commodities but fibre is on the horizon. Filippone, an eco-fibre developer is currently working with Chinese producers, and she’s eager to develop the Canadian market. “Canada could set the trend for the future,” she said.

It has been 10 years since hemp was allowed back on the farm landscape. It had been previously banned because of confusion between industrial hemp and marijuana. Since re-emerging, the hemp acres in Canada, and in particular, Manitoba have grown substantially.

Filippone sees her demand growing substantially as well.

As populations become more health conscious and aware of environmental impact, hemp is becoming a darling as a health food and as clothing that is more “green.”

Her farmers in China don’t use pesticides due to economics, but even in Canada the crop requires little other than fertilizer to grow.

In fact, Filippone said her hemp plots in China make a small carbon footprint, requiring less acres as the plant is so capable of producing large quantities of fibre from limited acres.

“In many countries, it has been grown organically for thousands of years,” she said.

Diversification specialist Scott Day said it’s hard to claim low carbon footprint when the clothing is produced so far away, and understood her willingness to work with Canada to bring this industry here.

She said Canadians should be moving toward the twine and fibre business, and work their way to textiles slowly.

“The demand is there.” Filippone has experience creating fashions with hemp but has also noticed an upswing in a demand for hemp diapers as people begin to shun the environmentally unfriendly disposables. She said she has a market for scrubs of biofibre as well.

Hemp appears to have properties that aren’t conducive to bacterial growth. It is resistant to ultraviolet rays and it is biodegradable, although it takes a long time to break down.

As well, it is fire resistant and anti-static.

Provincial director of Agri-Industry Development and Innovation, Daryl Domitruk was not quite as confident that hemp for the textile market would be a large industry here. But he acknowledged it is an interesting possibility.

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