Proponents of a new business venture want to use western Canadian hemp production to build more environmentally friendly panelling for a range of products.
Inca Renewable Technologies Inc. is developing its hemp-based panelling aimed at the RV industry.
David Saltman, Inca’s chief executive officer, said the company has secured a deal with Genesis Products, based in Elkhart, Indiana, to provide panelling for RVs.
“We’ve already signed a, essentially, distribution agreement with Genesis, which is one of the largest distributors to the RV industry,” said Saltman.
He said Inca is looking to build a hemp processing facility to supply the panelling product.
“Our plan is to site about a 105,000 sq. foot manufacturing operation, close to a rail line, 300-mile radius (480 km) of where a lot of the hemp is being grown,” said Saltman. “And to process all of that and turn it into high-value, long fibre for panel board lines — short fibre for injection moulding materials.”
The exact site of such a facility, estimated to process up to 50,000 tonnes of hemp annually, is yet to be determined.
“Originally, we had this idea we would acquire whole hemp bales in the Prairies and ship them down to our manufacturing operation in Elkhart, Indiana,” said Saltman. “What we quickly realized is that it made a lot more sense for us to do all of our fibre processing much closer to the farmgate.”
Inca is looking at sites in Western Canada because farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan produce hemp in large amounts, understand the large-scale practices and know how the plant can be used as a rotational crop.
“We understand we’re going to have to guarantee the farmers a market,” he said. “We’re not in the (hemp) protein business. We’re not in the CBD business. We provide a secondary income for those farmers in the form of their stalk.”
That will require working with hemp producers to develop the genomics of the crop that will allow it to be used for protein as a primary product with long-fibre as a secondary use.
“We know that we’re going to be involved in seed distribution and farming practices and we know (farmers) need to feel secure that we are the real deal.”
Saltman said that means Inca will sign long-term agreements for farmers’ biomass.
If reality can meet the vision for hemp products, the market for alternatives to plastics that hemp can provide is expansive, said Saltman.
In addition to providing materials for RVs, Saltman said the automotive sector is looking for more environmentally favourable materials.
“But more importantly, it’s to make a superior product,” said Saltman. “A lighter product, a stronger product, a class-A, fire-rated product. It’s just fascinating as to what this is going to.”