Small Scale Hemp Processing

Reader Martin Monin shares some links around hemp processing:

I don’t know if you have some research or an article under preparation for this, but as you know, hemp is an extraordinary plant for the low tech transition, and yet its use is still marginal, as it’s costlier than cotton/concrete and the other chemical/petrol substitutes.

There are multiple parts in the process, from the retting of the plant (which can be done naturally by letting the plant in the field after its cut, or chemically – like the Chinese do). And then decorticating, separating the fiber from the stem, and the flower/seeds. From my small research, it seems that the industry is more looking into huge machines to process the huge fields of American and Australian farmers. But there is not much around small scale farming, and I was wondering if you knew of any low tech projects around hemp processing?

Here is a machine made in Latvia that seems interesting but does only a small part of the whole process :

And another project between USA and Zambia to build a whole hemp processing facility, very interesting :

The dream would be to build a micro autonomous plant that produces seeds + flowers for CBD extraction, fiber for textile production and hurd for construction isolation…


Waffle Gardens

Historic Zuni waffle gardens, circa 1919. (Photo courtesy of Kirk Bemis)

For the past 64 years, Jim Enote has planted a waffle garden, sunken garden beds enclosed by clay-heavy walls that he learned to build from his grandmother. This year, he planted onions and chiles, which he waters from a nearby stream. It’s an Indigenous farming tradition suited for the semi-arid, high-altitude desert of the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, where waffle gardens have long flourished and Enote has farmed since childhood.

“They are the inverse of raised beds, and for an area where it is more arid, they’re actually very efficient at conserving water,” said Enote, who leads the Colorado Plateau Foundation to protect Indigenous land, traditions, and water. Each interior cell of the waffle covers about a square foot of land, just below ground-level, and the raised, mounded earthen walls are designed to help keep moisture in the soil.

Read more: The Resurgence of Waffle Gardens Is Helping Indigenous Farmers Grow Food with Less Water, Greta Moran, Civil Eats, October 2021.

How Sustainable is the Smart Farm?

“Computer-controlled hydroponics, vertical farms, and IoT-based precision agriculture are claimed to be sustainable, healthful, and humane methods of producing food. These so-called “smart” farming methods have arisen over the past decade and have received little scrutiny from a sustainability perspective. Meanwhile, they are attracting vast sums of both research and investment funding.”

“We ask a simple question: how sustainable is the “smart farm”? We take a technical, ecological, and social view of the systems that comprise a smart farm. Our aim is to tease apart which, if any, of the practices are actually beneficial, and which are simply a substitution of resources or a mere shifting of (human and/or ecological) externalities in time or space.

To evaluate the smart farm concept, we focus on two scenarios: indoor smart farms (controlledenvironment agriculture such as vertical farms), and outdoor smart farms (in which the environment is less controlled, but managed via precision agriculture). We also provide examples of the values that smart farms embody, who stands to gain from their operation, and what better alternatives might exist.

Read more: Streed, Adam, et al. “How Sustainable is the Smart Farm?” LIMITS 2021, (2021).

Previously: Vertical farming does not save space.

Scaling of Greenhouse Crop Production During Nuclear Winter

During a global catastrophe such as a nuclear winter, in which sunlight and temperatures are reduced across every latitude, to maintain global agricultural output it is necessary to grow some crops under structures. [Read more…]

“Diseconomies of Scale”: High-tech Versus Low-tech Supply of Eggs

Summarized from [paywall]: Trainer, T., A. Malik, and M. Lenzen. “A Comparison Between the Monetary, Resource and Energy Costs of the Conventional Industrial Supply Path and the “Simpler Way” Path for the Supply of Eggs.” Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality 4.3 (2019): 9.

Traditional housing for chickens in Zembe, Mozambique. By Ton Rulkens – Traditional housing 2, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Global sustainability requires large-scale reductions in rich world per capita resource use rates. Globalised, industrialised and commercialised supply paths involve high resource, energy, dollar and other costs. However, “The Simpler Way” involving small-scale integrated localised settlements and economies can enable enormous reductions in these costs. This study uses input–output analysis of one product, eggs, to illustrate how big the difference between the two paths can be. [Read more…]

Bicycle Powered Thresher

Farmhack has complete instructions for making a bicycle powered thresher. It works on various crops including dry beans, wheat, rice, rye, einkorn, and lupine, and threshes about one pound per minute.

This is the first of three tools for small scale grain processing. The other two tools are the bicycle powered fanning mill and the bicycle powered de-huller/flour mill.

Unlike some “hacks” for small farmers, the Grain Bikes don’t solve an acknowledged problem so much as create new opportunities for small farmers. Dry beans and grains are non-perishable, can be sold, eaten, or planted to avoid seed costs (such as rye for cover crops), and, the labor for processing them can be shunted to the winter when more time is available.

Find the manual at Farmhack.