With many farmers already out of business, only a couple years into the ability to farm hemp, the struggling few that are left are looking for any advantage they can get. Low prices, hot crops, and a global pandemic haven’t been kind to the hemp industry, but a new product might be able to turn waste farmers would usually have to discard into an effective fertilizer.
Full Circle Microbes is a company that is working to develop a team of microbes that turn hemp waste into something useful. After running a 2019 field test that involved a control group grown using standard fertilizer, the new full circle fertilizer, and a combination of the two, the results look promising. Justin Decateur of Wintermute Cannabis Collective found that over the 10 acres he planted, the control group performed the worst. The new fertilizer yielded 9% more than the control and the combination crop was 16% more productive.
This new fertilizer uses a proprietary mix of microorganisms, both bacteria and fungi to create something that is low cost and hugely beneficial to the profit margins of farmers, the soil, and the planet.
Charles Smith, Cofounder and CEO of the company, saw huge waste in the growing cannabis industry. He watched as 40 to 60 percent of the plants that farmers were growing was being discarded as waste as farmers rushed to grow CBD.
The strong lignin fibers that make hemp ideal for products like rope and textiles also take much longer to break down through natural methods like composting. Over the last three years, Full Circle has been working to develop a blend of naturally occurring bacteria and fungi that can quickly digest the lignin and release the valuable nitrogen and other nutrients locked in the leftover biomass.
Their process takes the digestion of hemp waste down from a year to as little as two weeks. The inoculent costs farmers about $250 per acre, and end up yielding 63 more pounds of hemp for each acre used. Since the microbes used already naturally occur in the soil, the product is automatically eligible to be used on organic farms.
In time, the company hopes to have a positive impact on how hemp is grown and how this new industry develops.