Why don’t we embrace hemp – which grows much more quickly than trees do, produces more paper than trees per acre, take up less space, and uses less chemicals in the production process – as an economically efficient replacement for trees in the making of a stronger, more versatile paper, lumber, and plywood?
Well, there’s a shift happening in the United States of America, FINALLY!
The country has taken the first step to utilize HempWood, an “eco-friendly timber” that uses hemp fibers and soy-based adhesives to create a wood-like material, as a renewable alternative to oak [there are about 78 species of oak tree that are now in danger of going extinct as a result of logging and deforestation].
Fibonacci LLC, a Maryland-based firm, has invested $5.8 million in a 11,230-square-foot HempWood manufacturing facility in Calloway County, which plans to begin production this summer. Greg Wilson, Fibonacci’s owner, has contracted for delivery of more than 800 tons of hemp stalks from Kentucky growers to get operations up and running.
The processing of HempWood mimics the growth cycle and attributes of an oak tree. In addition to being 20% tougher than oak, HempWood grows 100 times faster. It looks and feels like traditional oak materials – but instead of waiting several decades for a tree to fully mature, hemp can be harvested and regrown in just six months.
“It’s a good deal for this community,” said Tony Brannon, dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture at Murray State, noting that this will be the first such operation of its kind anywhere within the confines of the United States. “And it’s one of the only operations going that is committed to using the fiber of the hemp plant.”
Wilson created Fibonacci in March 2018 following 13 years of research and development in the wood products industry. The $5.8 million factory, which opened in Murray in the spring March, recently started producing their specialized material with more than 40,000 acres of hemp.
“We look forward to being a productive member of Kentucky’s agricultural and manufacturing communities, and the enormous opportunities of HempWood as a renewable alternative to oak,” said Wilson.
Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture, added:
“When I became commissioner of agriculture, I said I wanted to make Kentucky the epicenter of the hemp industry in the United States. The fact that Greg Wilson and Fibonacci LLC are choosing Kentucky to locate the first HempWood operation in the United States is a testament to the work we’ve done to strategically position Kentucky’s hemp industry.”
Advantages of hemp over wood include a much quicker growing time and greater density in the material which can be used for a wide range of applications that usually are based on wood, such as furniture and flooring. Fibonacci’s HempWood products will be in the form of blocks, pre-cut boards, flooring, cutting boards and skateboards at prices cheaper than those for oak products.