Ruth DeSantis has a word of advice for Central Alberta farmers who are tired of seeding canola and grain.
A business development officer with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, DeSantis said her department would like to see more of the versatile plant grown in this province, including in the central region.
“We want people to develop more of a knowledge and awareness about the industry, and then hopefully pursue opportunities as they arise with hemp in Alberta.”
To that end, Alberta Agriculture is working with Broadacre Farms, Fiber-Werx International Inc., Central Alberta: Access Prosperity, Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, and the Alberta Biomaterials Development Centre to organize a hemp-focused tour in the Sylvan Lake area. Scheduled for Aug. 15, the morning event will begin with a tour of an area farm where hemp is grown.
“We’re going to be hearing from an agronomist from Alberta Innovates — Technology Futures,” said DeSantis. “He works a lot with hemp all over the province.
“Then Alberta Agriculture is going to talk a bit about the opportunities with the food industry, and then the fibre industry.”
The tour will then move on to Sylvan Lake’s Fiber-Werx International, which has used hemp composites in a couple of projects. One involved body parts for a prototype electric car and another an innovative skateboard.
“We are looking at taking that to market,” said Sarah Olson, marketing director with Fiber-Werx, about the skateboard project. “So that will be an end-use consumer product made with hemp fibre.”
The prototype hemp car, she added, is on display at Composites Innovation Centre in Winnipeg.
Olson said tour participants will learn how hemp has and can be used to produce commercial products.
“One of the things that we’ll be talking about is the applications of hemp fibre with composite materials — what can be done and what the benefits are.”
Fiber-Werx can even help with this process, she added.
“If somebody had an idea for a consumer product that they wanted to make, say out of a bio-material and composite material, we are functionally capable of producing that.”
In addition to composite materials, hemp can be used to produce food products, textiles, building materials, erosion control products and other items, said DeSantis.
She’s hoping the tour will stimulate interest in these, and also plant the seed for collaboration between potential growers and commercial users.
“We want to raise awareness about opportunities in the hemp industry and also about the best management practices for growing hemp.”
Alberta Agriculture has hemp research plots in Lethbridge and Vegreville, and is planning a similar tour in Lethbridge on July 23. It would like to see morel fields seeded to hemp, said DeSantis.
“This is a way to help diversify what we can offer in the province.”
The Aug. 15 tour will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Sylvan Lake Walmart at 3420 47th Ave., with participants travelling together to Broadacre Farms and then Fiber-Werx.
Those interested in obtaining additional information or confirming their intention to take part can email DeSantis at Ruth.DeSantis@gov.ab.ca, but registration is not required.