Vegreville Decortication Plant Visit: April 2015

We’re getting really excited for harvest; Chad and I leave for Saskatchewan on Sunday September 6th! Plans are being finalized and contingencies put in place. While we’re deciding what to do with our hemp fibres and how best to dry our hemp seeds, I thought I should post this short story from earlier this year. Chad and I actually wrote this together at Breadroot Farms in May, and I hope it gets you excited to read about harvesting organic hemp this fall. -K

Vegreville Decortication Plant Visit

Chad visited the Alberta Innovates and Alberta Bio Development Center Decortication Facility in Vegreville, AB, on April 30th, 2015. Patti Breland was extremely helpful in arranging the tour and Chad was able to thank her at the Alberta Sustainable Building Symposium. Byron James led the tour starting with a display of inspiring and innovative hemp products made from the raw materials processed by Alberta Innovates. The pilot facility produces two grades of processed hemp which are inputs into other processed hemp products.

The plant is housed in brick research facility and includes an addition made from structural steel to house a pelletizer and bail chopper. These two machines are the beginning and end of the hemp refining process: the bail chopper cuts the raw agricultural product into 1 foot sections and the pelletizer compresses hemp dust into solid biofuel. After the hemp stalk bales are chopped, they are transported to the conveyor belt which feeds the hammer mill.

The hammer mill is the primary decortication machine. This separates the long, thin “bast” fibres from the inner core of the hemp plant “hurd” or “shiv”- which is coarse and wood like- with a circular drum and hammer. The higher grade material must go through the hammer mill twice. The broken down material moves through ducts to the separator. At this stage, a series of screens separates the bast and hurd fibres. The ducts are useful for transporting the hemp fibers and collecting dust, which is later pressed into pelletized biofuel .

Once separated, the bast and the hurd  fibres move through these ducts to separate cleaners: hurd into the “shiv cleaning separator” and bast into the “step cleaner”. Hurd fibres are deposited into industrial totes and bast fibres are compressed into square bales. The hemp dust released by the process is captured in the duct work and compressed in solid bio-fuel by the “pelletizer”.
The tour of the pilot facility was extremely useful to see first hand how natural fibre technology is developed and refined in the Alberta bio-processing sector. We will be using this knowledge and these contacts to further our research into how to build the best hemp processing plant with the right mix of products and the least amount of waste.

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