Techno-economic comparison of hemp production and processing for grain, Cannabidiol (CBD) and fiber 

Asmita Khanal
Graduate (PhD)
Ajay Shah
Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Hemp is a low resource-intensive crop that produces nutritious grain, Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, and fiber. Hemp products have important applications in the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, textile and composite industries. With the growing interest in this crop in the recent years, it is necessary to evaluate the technical feasibility and costs associated with its production, logistics and processing to grain, CBD oil and fibers. There are huge variabilities in the literature for the production and processing parameters of hemp, and lack of thorough analysis of its technical feasibility and associated costs. Thus, the objective of this study was to stochastically evaluate the techno-economics of the hemp life cycle from production, harvest and post-harvest logistics to processing for grain, fiber and CBD oil at the current state of technology. Hemp grown for these three applications differ in the production, and harvest and post-harvest practices, and processing methods. Grain and fiber hemp varieties are direct seeded while CBD variety is transplanted. Grain hemp is harvested using a combine, while hemp stalks are mowed, left in the field for retting, and baled mechanically. Flowers used for CBD oil extraction are hand harvested. Processing includes dehulling of grain, oil extraction from flowers for CBD, and decortication of stalks for fiber. The resource requirements and costs were stochastically estimated based on the material flows, energy use, and equipment and labor requirements. The estimated production costs (interquartile (IQ) range) for grain, CBD oil and fiber were $360-410, $10,800-11,900, and $1,200-1,400/ac, respectively. Based on the market prices, net revenues (IQ range) for grain, CBD oil and fiber were $280-460, $(300)-12,100, and $1,500-3,000, respectively. More stable market prices for hemp fiber and grain products compared to CBD oil make them low-risk alternatives for farmers. The economic viability of different hemp products can be improved by reduced cost of seeds and transplants used for planting, mechanization of hemp flower harvest and improvement of the decortication process for stalks. Future work on evaluating life cycle environmental impacts is recommended.