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 interesting conversation with Linde Snijders, manager @HempFlax, responsible for textile applications within HempFlax. Linde herself has also made some prototypes and thus has expertise in working with hemp material. She is an overall enthusiast about this wonderful plant and works with multiple partners from different industries working with hemp.

 

“We use the whole plant; the seed, the fiber, the leaf and the wood.”


Part I. The Diversity and Challenges of Hemp.

Hempflax was founded in 1994 by Ben Dronkers, with the aim to reclaim the hemp crop’s ancient glory. The original 140 hectares of industrial hemp have now grown to more than 2000 hectares of hemp. HempFlax cultivates hemp in The Netherlands, Germany and Romania.

HempFlax has the vision to utilize all parts of the hemp plant to create sustainable solutions for day to day life. And to lead this enormously diverse raw material to a healthy planet for future generations. HempFlax grows hemp and subsequently supplies the different parts of the hemp plant as raw materials and semi-finished products to companies in all kinds of industries, which then turn them into various hemp-based products.

Linde is the location manager for Germany at HempFlax and is also responsible for textile applications with the hemp fiber. She was the appointed person for this role due to her history with hemp clothing. As a hobby she enjoys designing and creating hemp clothing under her own brand: LinCa. Besides working for HempFlax, she’s also personally very enthusiastic about working with hemp textiles.

““Yes, I also started making some hemp jackets and hemp suits myself. I would take these to trade fairs and events, where many people came from within the industry. I wanted to show them as an example, but people were so excited about them that I had usually sold a few prototypes at the end of the day, naturally making me even more excited!”

The Wonderful Parts of the Hemp Plant

One of the most beautiful aspects of the hemp plant which came forth out of the conversation with Linde, is the enormous diversity it has to offer. Just looking at the variety of applications for various industries which HempFlax facilitates, you simply have to become intrigued by this special plant. HempFlax supplies oil from the seed of the hemp plant, or supplies the seed in bulk. The fiber is mainly used in the automotive industry – for car door panels – or for paper. The wood is used as a raw material for building materials and industrial applications. Even the dust that is released is being used for the cultivation of roses. And bear in mind, that these are just some of the many applications the hemp plant can offer. No part of the plant is left unused.

“Yes we use the entire plant; the seed, the fiber, the leaf and the wood. Even the dust that is released during production is sold. This is shipped to South Korea, for rose cultivation. What people often view as waste, we use. At HempFlax we have no waste.”

The fact both Linde and we believe in the potential of hemp is soon clear. Nevertheless, HempFlax still faces some challenges regarding the development of the hemp fiber to create high quality textiles. Up until now the fiber was mainly sold for the automotive industry. Large brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have been processing hemp fibers in their car door panels for years. However Linde mentions that the demand for hemp fibers in the automotive industry is starting to decline and the demand for hemp fibers in the textile industry is rising. However, first there are some challenges to overcome in order to make the fiber suitable for beautiful textile products.

“The hemp plant is a fantastic plant, however the fiber is quite stiff and weaving and spinning machines are not designed for that. That’s why the main question is, how do we soften the fiber sufficiently so that it can be processed? Obviously in a sustainable manner. Because we often see beautiful soft hemp fibers, mainly from China, only to find out afterwards that is has been processed with Alkaline or another chemical substance. Of course this will allow you to have beautiful soft fibers, allowing it to compete with cotton, but it stands completely opposite to the philosophy of sustainable and ecological. There are also natural ways to soften the fiber, such as by steam explosion or through an enzymatic process. I think more research has to be done on natural ways to soften the fibers.”

 

What kind of collaborations are you interested in? And what is needed now?

“There is currently a project from the EIHA. Within this project, spinning mills, weaving mills and raw material suppliers are joining forces to put hemp textiles on the map. It would even be better if a large supplier or brand joined the project. For example, in America, Levi's is working with hemp. You need a big brand that also supports hemp so that you can increase the output. ”

Besides the challenges to soften the fiber, there are also some organizational challenges. Different organisations will have to fulfil their role in the process of hempseed to textile product, and this entire process must be fine-tuned well.

“You need a raw materials supplier, after which the fiber has to be processed so it’s suitable for a spinning mill and weaving mill, they then turn it into hemp fabrics, out of which a final product has to be made. So at the very least you will be dealing with these 4 links and they just have to work together efficiently.”

The hemp fiber industry is an up and coming industry with a lot of potential but it requires the market and consumers to move along with the development of hemp. Like all good things in life, this takes time. HempFlax is open to collaborations for small scale experimenting with hemp fibers and is willing to provide fibers so new breakthroughs can be made for hemp and the textile industry. In the past they have provided hemp products to cabinet makers and artists to stimulate the use of hemp. As HMPLB we hope to also play a role within the development of hemp textile, by producing premium quality beautiful products out of 100% European hemp fibers. It is also our goal to contribute to the development of a local hemp value chain on a European level and in The Netherlands.  

In Part II. You will read about why we need an alternative to cotton, the necessity of more local value chains and the art of not only creating sustainable and responsible products, but also premium quality and beautiful products.


 

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller