Canada finds new use for hemp: concrete reinforcement

Updated Sep 17, 2018
A bale of hemp awaits processing. Photo courtesy Canadian Greenfield Technologies.A bale of hemp awaits processing. Photo courtesy Canadian Greenfield Technologies.

In 2012, Mike Pildysh, a Canadian concrete expert and engineer, created a new company in Calgary called Canadian Greenfield Technologies with the goal of developing reinforcing products to control concrete shrinkage cracking, The Western Producer reports. What he came up with was using select fiber from industrial hemp plants.

“We tested a bunch…and the highest tensile strength was hemp,” said Stephen Christensen, vice-president and general manager for Canadian Greenfield Technologies, according to the news agency.

Research showed that hemp fibers reduced cracking and outperformed existing technologies, but the hemp fiber on the market didn’t meet their needs, so they came up with a new process.

“After extensive research… (Canadian Greenfield Technologies) has developed and implemented the HempTrain decorticator technology,” the company said in press release, according to the news agency. “The cost of a HempTrain decortication facility is much lower per ton/hour of throughput than conventional decortication technologies, while producing much higher value.”

“(HempTrain) works to get a cleaner fiber that is longer and coarser and stronger,” Christensen said, according to the news agency, adding that the traditional hammer milling can damage fibers, making them unsuitable for concrete reinforcement.

The decortication plant in Calgary has been in operation since 2016, and the company is ready to sell the technology to others in North America’s hemp industry. “It is a full-on facility people can buy,” Christensen said, according to the news agency. “And we’ll ship it out to them, and they’ll be able to get in business, making whatever they want in fiber, hurd, microfibre or both.”

The processed hemp fibers can be used in standard concrete, decorative concrete, and shotcrete.