An East Anglian hemp producer believes it can help Chancellor Gordon Brown achieve his dream of zero carbon housing by 2016 – and is investing £4 million in the world’s largest hemp production factory to prove it.
Tiny Hemcore Ltd, based in Bishop’s Stortford, Herts and Maldon, Essex, had decided to build the facility in central East Anglia to ramp up production of hemp fibre for conversion into a revolutionary building material that has phenomenal energy-saving properties. The possibilities for housebuilding are so exciting that Hemcore has been asked to take its innovation worldwide. Leading players from Africa have already begun talks.
Although it employs just 17 people, Hemcore is the UK’s largest grower and processor of hemp; it contracts British farmers to grow around 3,000 hectatres of industrial hemp – a plant from the cannabis family with a virtually zero drug content.
Hemp was once grown widely across the UK to produce fibre for the sails and riggings of the naval fleet. Now it has been adapted for a huge range of new industrial applications. The fibre and core products are already sold into Europe’s paper, automotive and insulation industries, but boss Mike Duckett says the prospects for housebuilding are “incredibly exciting.”
“We believe we can help the Government achieve its objective of zero carbon housing by 2016,” he said. Suffolk brewer Adnams recently pioneered the use of Hemcore’s material to build a new warehouse in Southwold. The success of that project and the excited reaction it has caused in the construction industry persuaded Hemcore to launch the new material on a much grander scale.
The hemp-based material is very thermally efficient and during the growing phase takes CO2 out of the atmosphere. No agrichemicals are used in the growing process, making this the ultimate natural fibre.
Duckett adds: “We have formed a four-way collaboration to drive this initiative, backed by major players such as Castle Cement, Lime Technology and Lhoist in Belgium. They are as excited as we are. “There is no way we will be able to keep the lid on this. Our turnover will shoot from £1m to a projected £25m and we will have to go international, judging by the reaction from Africa. “It won’t mean massive addition to headcount for us locally, but the implications for housebuilding globally – not to mention the planet – are immense.”
In the automotive sector, BMW is taking the Hemcore fibres to make door panels of its 5 series. There is also increasing interest from global industries in using hemp fibres in plastics reinforcement.
Source: Business Weekly, 2007-03-07.