In order to process industrial hemp for its strong fiber, hemp stalks must first be separated into its interior and exterior parts. Hemp processors can choose either the traditional method of retting or the modern method of decortication. The typical time for hemp fiber process is 90 hours for acid/base processing, and 48 hours for the enzyme retting process. Non-mobile decortication is estimated to last 24 hours plus the additional 24 hours allotted to the conditioning period. Traditional Retting of Industrial Hemp • One method of processing industrial hemp is, what the industry considers, the traditional method of ‘retting.‘ This process involves the degradation of the pectin, which is the substance that binds the tough woody interior of the hemp stalk, also called the hurd fiber, and the softer, more fibrous exterior, or the hurd fiber. • There are three types of retting that utilize either: 1) microorganisms, 2) acid/bases, or 3) special enzymes. The latter two called water and chemical retting involve the use of special facilities such as tanks, dryers, and specialty chemicals. Field retting, the most common type of retting, only requires the utilization of microorganisms found in the stem or in soil. Pros & Cons • Two advantages of processing industrial hemp fiber through retting are its cost effectiveness and accessibility. Field retting, also called controlled rotting, only requires that a farmer oversees and properly manages hemp stalks that are just left on the ground for several weeks. • A disadvantage of field retting is that it is dependent on cooperative weather conditions. Field retting takes several weeks to finish and can be accelerated when there is warm weather with intermittent precipitation; however, the process can also be delayed under suboptimal weather conditions. • Moreover, over-retting can cause the quality of the industrial hemp fiber to decrease and weaken its strength. Time & Cost Investment • The typical time for processing acid/base in industrial hemp is estimated to be 90 hours if the processing liquor is kept at 30°C. • For special enzyme retting process, the estimated processing time is 48 hrs with conditioning between 17 and 23°C and relative humidity of between 55 and 65 degrees. • The cost for both phases of industrial hemp fiber processing has an estimated cost of $305,18 per acre. The cost only takes into consideration machine cost, fuel, operator labor, and repair and maintenance cost. Modern Decortication of Industrial Hemp • Industrial hemp decortication is a method of processing tough hemp that separates the bast and hurd fiber of the hemp stalk by breaking it. • This method is made possible through a machine called a decorticator, which mechanically separates the inner hurd fibers from the outer bast fiber of the hemp stalks using a hammermill-like mechanism. It is recommended that non-mobile decortication is carried out in two steps. 1) First, the industrial hemp stems are “cured for 24 hours at room temperature followed by 14 hours at 50°C.” 2) Next, a conditioning period of 24 hours at between 22 and 24°C is recommended to get the samples to optimal stiffness. Pros & Cons • An advantage of utilizing this method is that it processes hemp stalks faster than the traditional method of retting. • Another advantage that it has over retting is that it is less dependent on weather conditions as technological advances have it possible to process wet hemp using a decorticator. • On the other hand, traditional retting is less costly and more accessible. • The dependence on mechanical equipment for decortication means that farmers will need to make significant investments based on the decorticator equipment configuration needs. Time & Cost Investment • A non-mobile industrial hemp decortication facility can process about 10 tons of hemp an hour. • According to research, the decortication machine is the only tool required for the decortication process. • The only additional cost of non-mobile decortication is labor cost which depends on the size of the industrial hemp processing facility. Cost & Time Investment • A non-mobile industrial hemp decortication facility costs between $2 million and $2.5 million, and is able to process 10 tons of hemp an hour. • According to research, the decortication machine is the only tool required for the decortication process. • The only additional cost of non-mobile decortication is labor cost which depends on the size of the industrial hemp processing facility.