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Hemp project gets financial boost

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A University of Guelph agricultural project that’s studying the possibility of growing low-THC hemp wood fibre as a cash crop got a bit of cash thrown its way last week to help cover expenses for this year.

The Rainy River Future Development Corp. presented Gordon Scheifele, the University of Guelph’s northern research co-ordinator, with a $2,000 cheque at the Rainy River Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s annual meeting Thursday night in Emo.

Scheifele said the money will go towards the $155,000 price tag the project has generated. It is being split among the University of Guelph, Quetico Centre, the Thunder Bay Co-op, the Soil and Crop Improvement Association, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

The big expense this year stemmed from THC levels testing. Since THC is a narcotic chemical, the same one found in marijuana, Scheifele said the research group wanted to find a sturdy variety of hemp with the lowest THC level possible.

"We had to sample each variety," he said, noting five varieties of hemp were tested in the research plots. "And then have it tested by an approved lab--there’s only one in Canada [that’s equipped]."

This past summer’s test results proved hemp will grow in the north although more research and development is in the works.

"We have eight [district] farmers who agreed to grow strip trials on their farms," Scheifele said, noting five other such trials will be done in the Kenora/Dryden area and six more in Thunder Bay.

In total, more than 40 hectares (100 acres) of hemp will be planted in various soil and field conditions to determine the yield of the hemp.

"We know it will grow," Scheifele said. "But what is its potential?"

If the potential is there to grow mass amounts of hemp, the next step would be to set up a factory to separate the wood fibre from the core.

While both products have commercial uses, the wood fibre in hemp has the most immediate potential to be sold to the paper mill or even used to make oriented strand board, Scheifele noted.

"If it has the potential, there would be a factory built here, providing 10 full-time jobs for every 1,000 acres [405 ha] grown," he said.

"[And] that’s just to separate the wood fibre," he added.

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