Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa), i.e., low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) hemp, is a quick-growing and high-yielding biomass crop. Production in Australia has increased from less than 500 ha in 2017 and is now around 2,500 ha. Recent production has stabilised at this level with a growing proportion of crops being grown for biomass, (i.e., for fibre), rather than for grain.
For the fibre crop to be attractive to new growers, more value from the straw (hurd and fibre), will need to be redeemed. The hurd fraction currently has a small but growing market as an input into building materials such as hempcrete and for pet bedding, but the fibre fraction is still not exploited in Australia.
This report reviewed options for processing Australian industrial hemp straw. Baled hemp straw was processed through an industrial scale pilot processing plant in Canada, and through a cotton ginning facility in NSW. The resulting fibre was assessed in terms of fibre yield and quality. Fibre quality results reflect limitations at both the facilities. Further refinement would be needed for it to be wholly acceptable to non-woven or textile manufacturing. The report describes several options for the development of fibre refining capacity in Australia.