Because the hemp industry is relatively new and still growing in North America, many producers still lack suitable equipment, infrastructure, systems, and know-how to deliver a quality hemp product.
Industrial hemp processing, be it for fiber, seeds, or CBD, is currently going through a renaissance. Growers are rediscovering a century-old technology as well as innovating new products, processes, and equipment for the present day. Whether it’s for industrial use or CBD extraction, the basic post-harvest handling is relatively similar.
That said, there are many differences when it comes to CBD-rich hemp, as opposed to hemp cultivated for industrial purposes. Processing equipment and practices will vary depending on the type of hemp grown, cultivation, and standard processes used in the region. Because the industry is still young, different farms and regions will adopt unique approaches.
The Importance of Hemp Drying
The importance of hemp drying post-harvest cannot be understated. There are plenty of things that go into the cultivation and harvesting process of hemp, but the drying process can make or break the quality of the product.
If hemp is dried cleanly, properly, and promptly, there will be minimal damage or loss. As such, this will maximize the quality of fiber, food, or medicinal products resulting from the harvest. On the other hand, if the hemp is dried improperly (too wet, too slowly, with inadequate or insufficient ventilation) or becomes contaminated with bacteria, fungi, etc., your harvest may be completely unsuitable for food or medicinal processing.
Farmers who want to enter the hemp industry will often fail to address this important aspect of the post-harvest process, putting them in a difficult situation. That said, there are a couple of ways to dry hemp.
Outdoor Hemp Drying
When dealing with hemp intended for seed or fiber use, it’s not uncommon to dry hemp outdoors in drier climates. This process can work well on warm, dry days, but it can result in significant damage to the product if rain, fog, or other intemperate weather patterns that slow the drying process or allow for mold to set in. Farmers looking to dry their product outside should also minimize the accumulation of dust, weeds, or other elements that may contaminate the drying crop.
Indoor Hemp Drying
More commonly, however, hemp is dried indoors. For optimal conditions, farmers should use environmentally-controlled rooms or specialized warehouses. To the untrained eye, improperly dried hemp is susceptible to mold and humidity, incorrect temperature and ultraviolet light. Therefore, dehumidifiers, large fans, heaters, AC units, are all used to improve the balance between humidity and temperature (ideally 61%, 61 degrees respectively), and overall airflow during the drying process.
Nevertheless, it is important that these facilities offer a suitable standard, mainly if you’re dealing with food or medicinal products. For example, these facilities will need to have clean and dry floors and ensure that there are no insect or animal infestations that could contaminate the product. Farmers with barns that previously housed animals such as horses need to be cautious as they can also introduce potential contaminants.
When it comes to hemp used for its CBD, properly drying the plants will ensure maximum preservation of CBD value and terpene content. It’s also best that each stem is separated, rather than drying the whole plant. These can be hung from a trellis, chains, or other structures to maximize space.
There are also types of hemp industrial ‘flash’ drying machines which can dry large volumes at a faster pace. However, some will use excessive heat, which can degrade cannabinoids and vaporize terpenes found in hemp. Ideally, these machines should use warm, dry air and movement for the drying process.
If you want to learn more about hemp, hemp cultivation, and processing, as well as CBD products, please feel free to visit the Root Origins website, follow us on social media, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.