Now that hemp has been legalized, companies have been looking all over the country for hemp processors. We have also received more and more questions about what we do? What does it mean to process hemp? What does a hemp processor do? This article hopes to answer some of your questions.
Why does hemp need to be processed?
Hemp, as a part of the bast plant family, consists of two beneficial materials that can be used in industrial applications; the woody core (hemp hurd) and fiber. These applications include cars, paper, animal bedding, surfboards, and an almost endless list of other consumer goods. We process these crops to meet the exact specifications of our customers, who then use our materials to make the products you love.
But what does a hemp processor actually do?
This will be a little more specific, just hang in there with me. Before the natural cellulose fibers from bast crops, like hemp, can be used, a process of cleaning and separating the core from the fiber needs to occur. For most of the bast fiber industry, this separation begins with the farmers. After growing and harvesting the crop, they will leave the crops in the fields for a few days for retting. During this process, the enzymes begin to naturally break down the compounds, called pectin, that helps hold the fibers and hurd together. This slowly begins to separate the fibers from the hurd allowing for easier processing at our facilities. The farmers then take what is left in the field, bale it, and sends it straight to one of our hemp processing facilities.
Once we have the straw, the fibers are separated from the hurd by a machine called a decorticator. A decorticator breaks apart the hemp stalk and progressively separates the fiber from the hurd using mechanical force and air pressure. This process can be repeated again to separate more core material from the bast fiber depending on the required material specification.
From there, the fiber is sent through a refining machine. The purpose of this machine is to increase fiber fineness and remove as much leftover core material as possible that may have made it through the previous decortication processes. The hurd that has been separated from the fiber is caught on a series of conveyor belts underneath the processing equipment, where it can also be carried by pneumatic tubes for its final processing.
Are the fibers ready to go out immediately after processing?
They could be after fiber refinement, and the drying process is finished. Some customers ask that our fibers undergo surface treatments, and this is where that process begins. The might also have to go undergo a chemical cottonization process in order to become softer. When cottonized, the fiber can easily be dropped into cotton textile applications. Sometimes, we are also asked to scour and bleach our fiber which will include additional processing steps.
After this processing, the materials are ready to be sent to the customer. This is the life of a hemp processor.
If you’re looking for hemp material or if you’re looking to partner with Sunstrand as a farmer, head over to our contact page linked below and fill out the form for more information!