Besides creating premium hemp products, we believe it’s very important to inform you about hemp as a natural resource and to engage you in our journey. And that’s what our platform and the concept of “HMPLB in conversation with:” is all about. We will initiate meaningful conversations with professionals, entrepreneurs, growers/cultivators, researchers, consumers, enthusiasts and generally interesting people within the fields of hemp and sustainability. Feel inspired, and know that you are also a part of these series, so if you have any questions, ideas or input regarding the challenges and topics mentioned within these conversations, simply send us a message! Hopefully by sharing knowledge it will allow us all to gain a deeper understanding of the value chain around hemp and the endless potential hemp provides.

Together we can create a balance between people, earth and economy.

 

We had an inspiring conversation with Jeroen Bos. Jeroen was responsible for the development of a sustainable technology on an industrial scale to make bast fibers such as hemp suitable for textile production, for the Swedish interior retailer IKEA. In the beginning of his career he worked for Nike as a textile developer and has now been working in this field for 10 years. Jeroen has gained unique expertise in working with bast fibers since he started at Netl .: a Dutch company that has developed textile products based on nettles.

“That's why I really enjoy talking to you. Because I just want to see improvements in the industry. ”


Part I. From converted bottle warmer to industrial setup.

Jeroen Bos has been working with pleasure on developing the industrial processing of nettle and hemp. As the innovation manager of Netl, he literally transformed the bottle warmer of his kids into a biodigester, to obtain useful textile fibers from nettle.

“When I started working for Netl, I looked at the fibers and thought; we can do better. Before I went on a vacation I left some fibers in a little pot on the windowsill. When I returned from my holiday I noticed that the fibers had started rotting, similar to a form of water retting. Back then I didn’t know it actually was retting. But I did see some very beautiful fibers and I showed them to my boss. He could see my enthusiasm and allowed me to continue working on it.”

His work evolved from a converted bottle heater, to a pilot manufacturing plant for the processing of Nettle fibers in the Noordoostpolder in the Netherlands.



Amongst other brands, Netl has collaborated with Camira; an English interior fabric supplier and together with G-star they released a jeans collection. Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to develop Netl fabric which could be competitive with Cotton. The market decided to stick with cotton, easy and cheap. Something we also often encounter when discussing hemp.


“That’s right, Netl did have the right intentions and wanted to contribute, But we were not able to convince the market and eventually Netl was discontinued".

 
Open Source to the Future

Fortunately, the work of Jeroen and Netl, didn’t go to waste. Jeroen was approached by a Swedish home and interior retailer. The Swedish company was interested in the technology developed by Jeroen and wanted to apply this technology to develop a hemp supply chain. Jeroen was then hired to engage on this mission. Jeroen and Netl, both shared an open source mindset.  

““Both Netl and I wanted to make the process open source. That’s also why I like talking to you. Because I really want the textile industry to change for the better.” ”.

On the contrary, the Swedish retailer was concerned about protecting intellectual property. This placed Jeroen in a challenging spot. Eventually, this all led to the development of a patent, but with a positive outcome. As Jeroen puts it:


The patent wasn’t claimed, for me it is important to share this with you. The patent has been honored by the authorized patent distributor, but the Swedish retailer didn’t claim the patent, and thus the patent became freely accessible public information.

 
To us as HMPLB this is a valuable and important step in the right direction, for developing useful bast fibers and to apply them as textile resources. The patent describes a process of bio digestion, also referred to as innovative water retting, which was developed together with the Swedish home and interior retailer. The process allows the conversion of relatively harsh fibers from hemp and nettle and turn them into soft fibers, perfectly suited for textile products. This is still often referred to as the largest challenge for hemp and nettle, to become primary resources for the textile industry. Jeroen started his career working with nettle fibers, but later he continued his career with hemp. In the Netherlands he worked with several organizations, like other fiber softeners (Stexfibers) and hemp cultivators and suppliers (HempFlax and Dunagro). Based on the researched and developed technology to transform hemp fibers to textile material, he developed a pilot manufacturing plant in Romania. Together with Jeroen we share a mission to provide products made from beautiful natural fibers and introducing these products to a larger crowd, and through doing so, we hope to make the textile industry more sustainable. Even though there are still some major challenges to overcome, we believe that without challenges there is no growth.

 

In Part 2. You can read about the potential of hemp, but also about the biggest challenges we are currently facing.  

 

 
“When things do not go your way, remember that every challenge — every adversity — contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” - Roy T.  Bennett