New study from the University of Aberdeen reveals hemp's potential to make Scotland's agricultural sector carbon neutral
Hemp has the potential to make Scotland's agricultural sector carbon neutral and provide huge economic benefits, according to a new report. For the first time, a detailed analysis has been carried out of the market opportunities for the Scottish hemp sector, with time-bound recommendations to revamp the supply chain.
Hemp was once widely cultivated in Scotland and its cultivation dates back over 6000 years. It has many uses, including carbon dioxide offsetting, food, fertilizer and environmentally friendly pesticides. It is currently used in building materials, as a biofuel, as a textile fabric and even as an alternative to plastic. As a food source, it is high in protein, fiber and micronutrients, and has an exceptional fatty acid profile.
Le investigation report is the result of a collaboration between the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen and Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), in partnership with the Scottish Agricultural Organization Society (SAOS) and the Scottish Hemp Association (SHA). She analyzed the hemp and fiber supply chain in Scotland using data collected from farmers primarily in the North East of Scotland as well as the Borders.
Currently, the Scottish hemp supply chain is underdeveloped and farmers do not have well-established marketing channels. The supply chain is also exposed to many threats limiting its development, including low profitability, lack of technical support, weather limitations, lack of financial support and strict legislation.
Funded by the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services through a Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI)-Gateway grant, the study also looked at HMRC trade data as well as global data of Mintel on the development of new products. Trade data shows that the UK is a net importer of hemp seed and hemp fibre.
Joint author of the report, Dr Wisdom Dogbe of the Rowett Institute, said: “The information collected was used to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the challenges and opportunities facing the hemp sector.
“We know that global production of industrial hemp has been in decline since the 1960s due to an unfavorable political climate for the cultivation and use of this plant, as well as legislation. However, hemp has the potential to be a profitable, carbon neutral and environmentally friendly crop for farmers.
“The UK is among the first five countries to launch hemp products globally. Majority of the products launched are in the category of snacks, beverages and nutritional drinks, healthcare, breakfast cereals and bakery products.
“The top five facts associated with hemp products are that they contain few, no, or few allergens, are vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, and can be grown organically. It really has the potential to be a cost-effective product providing both health and environmental benefits.”
Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha from SRUC, co-author of the report, added: “Our research has provided strong advice on the steps needed to take to progress the Scottish hemp sector. These include, in the short term, strategies that can be adopted by stakeholders such as using hemp as a carbon credit crop as well as providing educational/technical support to hemp farmers.
“Mid-term strategies include easing hemp regulations and establishing a strong hemp processing sector.
“Long-term strategies to revitalize the hemp sector include establishing strong vertical and horizontal linkages, a seed production center and a well-coordinated hemp association.”
Personal chair, Professor Wendy Russell of the Rowett Institute, who has worked with farmers to support hemp production in Scotland and developed the project with partners, added: “We have already demonstrated the health benefits of this important environmental culture and we will continue to support our farmers and the processing sector on this exciting journey. Hemp oil, which has an optimal ratio of omega fatty acids, has already been produced in Scotland, but this report also demonstrates the wider societal and economic potential of hemp production in Scotland.”