Having completed a dissertation in 2019 about the viability of hemp as a break crop, Hugh Wrangham and business partner Alistair McLeod founded the Northumberland-based firm Hemp North.
The first crop was established in 2021, running hemp in rotation with winter cereals, oilseed rape and beans across the 600 hectare farm.
“Our objective was to show that hemp is an environmentally friendly and viable diversification option for conventional family farms,” explained Mr Wrangham. “Grown as a sustainable break-crop hemp delivers four times the CO2 sequestration compared with the same area of forestry, and delivers an additional revenue stream through the sale of British-grown highly nutritious ‘super-food’ hemp seed products.”
The production of hemp seed oil was outsourced, but the pair looked at ways of dehulling the hemp on farm, and considered several solutions. In addition, decisions had to be made about how the hemp seed would be dried and cleaned.
“To overcome the challenge of how to dry our hemp seeds quickly to preserve the quality, McArthur Agriculture supplied us with a Mecmar drier. They were really helpful and easy to communicate with as we discussed different drier options,” he said.
Both Mr Wrangham and Mr McLeod travelled to the company’s depot in Flixborough to discuss options with director Scott McArthur.
“Once Scott had shown us the JK Machinery range of robust, yet easy to operate, cost-effective post-harvest equipment, including cleaning and dehulling solutions, we understood how McArthur Agriculture’s knowledge combined with the JK Machinery range, enables farm diversification projects like ours, to get off the ground,” Mr Wrangham said.
“Working with Scott, we kept the facility modular and relied on gravity feeds and good old-fashioned manual labour to transfer the hemp seed between different processing stages. This allowed us to trial the system, learn the methodology and constantly tweak the parameters to improve yields and efficiencies.”
Bringing these processes in-house enabled Hemp North to process to order and control quality, building close relationships with the early customers. Processing starts with the hemp seeds being dried, if necessary, in the Mecmar drier. After this, they are cleaned and graded with the JK Machinery JCC 05 VibroCompact sieve cleaner.
According to demand, the seeds are passed through the JK Machinery JHI 05 Impact Dehuller, which accelerates the grain and throws it against a hard surface causing the grain to shed its hull. The hemp hearts are then passed through the VibroCompact to remove any whole hemp seeds.
A small number of remaining shells or hulls are separated with a JK Machinery JGC 03 Gravity Concentrator.
“McArthur Agriculture’s expertise has been invaluable. Before we were entirely sure how the post-harvest processing would work, we took some hemp seed to McArthur Agriculture and Scott dehulled it for us as a trial using the JK Machinery. He pretty much taught us the process in one afternoon!” said Mr Wrangham.
“Now in year two we have begun to automate our dehulling facility. This enables us to increase output and produce dehulled hemp hearts at a volume which allows us to offer increasingly good value to our customers.
“We are continuing to work with McArthur Agriculture so that we can take advantage of its knowledge and expertise in the supply of seed handling equipment. The McArthur team will work with us to deliver the capability we need to efficiently dry and grade harvested hemp, in larger quantities, on farm. This will mean we can grow more hemp!” he concluded.
For more information go to www.mcarthuragriculture.co.uk