“We need options, otherwise we’ll be a wheat-canola country from coast to coast and that’s not sustainable.”
– DARYL DOMITRUK
Hemp is the solution for many agricultural and environmental concerns in Canada according to Daryl Domitruk. The director of Agri-Industry Development and Innovation for the province said Manitoba is especially well suited to position itself as the “hemp” province.
Because of Manitoba’s central location, movement of product can happen easily to the south, east and west. Our abundance of water and less arid conditions allow the plant to flourish here.
Domitruk said farm market incomes have been declining and reliance on producer payment programs and subsidies is growing. But hemp can reverse the trend if developed to the full industry potential.
“It will allow us to make agriculture the solution to environmental concerns, health, and the economy,” he said.
He said “hemp can be our corn” for ethanol production.
While early adopters experienced some issues with harvest, hemp has proven to be a good plant in a rotation. With few insects interested in it, there are no pesticides sprayed. As well, hemp grows very tall very fast, choking out weeds.
The hemp food industry is booming as companies like Manitoba Harvest, Hemp Foods and Oils continue to develop new and exciting ways to include hemp in daily diets.
The health benefits of the seed and oil are already well documented, but Kelley Fitzpatrick of NutriTech Consulting recommended attendees at the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance annual meeting to aggressively pursue more research dollars to continue to get science to support health claims.
Fitzpatrick and Domitruk spoke at the conference to a room full of the already converted. Industry stakeholders at the CHTA are well aware of the niche market hemp provides. While it might be a niche market now, there is room for expansion. Farm Genesis in Waskada is marketing products that boast the health properties of hemp.
And while food booms, fibre is just beginning to get going.
In Europe, it is quite the opposite. Fibre is used for all kinds of products while the seed and oil is garbage.
Domitruk thinks Manitoba growers could be successful with both.
“We need options, otherwise we’ll be a wheat-canola country from coast to coast and that’s not sustainable,” he said.
The Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers have been working tirelessly to create a fibre-processing plant in the Dauphin area. It is their hope that hemp insulation will eventually overtake the fibreglass pink insulation, but they will begin with insulation for car interiors as well as producing bedding for animals.
Hemp is also being processed for use as biomass for heating solutions. Domitruk sees this as a way to stop “leakage” of income to other provinces and countries as we import fuel for heating. He said policy demands can increase the need to exploit the biofibre industry as our government works to eliminate the use of coal.
Domitruk said food versus fuel will continue to be an important consideration while hemp stands to deliver both.