Hemp fibre processors plan facilities in Alberta

One hemp fibre plant will be built and another is probable in southern Alberta, according to officials from two different companies.

Cylab International plans to move its operations from China to an undetermined location in southern Alberta.

“It’s definitely going ahead,” said Cylab chief executive officer Brett Boag Jan. 17.

“We are still determining the place. We have a lab pretty much set up in Springbank.”

Boag said the $32 million plant will process hemp fibre into construction materials, animal bedding and other products. Biofuel will be a byproduct.

Plant decortication capacity will be 10 tonnes per hour.

The plant will also extract oils from hemp leaves and stalks for use as a binding agent. In the longer term, there are plans to extract cannabidiol from the oil for pharmaceutical use in pain relief and weight control medications.

Cylab expects to employ 70 people.

Boag has already spoken to farmers in the Lethbridge and Taber areas about growing hemp this year for use when the plant is operational in 2015.

“They are highly receptive. Its quite amazing actually.”

The purchase price is still in negotiation, Boag said.

Cylab has operated a plant in China for eight years. In the last five years, it began to replace cheap Chinese glass fibre with hemp fibre, much of it imported from Germany via Manitoba. Manufactured product was then shipped to the United States, the primary market.

“Doing it here, for us it makes so much sense,” he said, noting the region’s proximity to the U.S.

The other plant likely to build in Alberta is called Stemia, which has identified a site near Chin, as the location for a flax and hemp straw decortication plant that will make products for construction, automotive and paper industries.

Mike Duckett of Stemia said its proposed $32 million plant is probable but not yet confirmed, and he expects to know more in two to three months.

“Everything is moving forward slightly slower than I’d hoped, but it is moving forward positively at the moment.”

He anticipates construction will start in April if all goes according to plan.

Manitoba Harvest, which produces edible hemp seed products, is also seeking to increase contracted acreage in southern Alberta this year.

“We’re very optimistic about the dual income stream possibilities for building both the grain and the fibre at the same time so that farmers can take advantage of both those income streams,” said Alberta Agriculture biomaterials development officer Lori-Jo Graham. “If we get these two (manufacturing plants) established, we will really be the centre for hemp straw processing.”

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