Hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive counterpart, can be turned into a large variety of products. And in 2016, Colorado farmers produced half of the hemp grown in the United States. Even after more states started growing the crop in 2017, Colorado still planted over three times more of it than any other state in the country, with North Dakota and Kentucky following next, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
But Colorado’s ability to process the plant is limited, because it doesn’t have a decorticator, a machine that separates hemp’s stringy outer layer, called the baste, from its woody core, known as the hurd. Traditional farming equipment and wood chippers get jammed up by the fibers, a kink that Cuno Hansen, head of clothing company All Seeing Colorado LLC, aims to fix by bringing in the state’s first decorticator.
During a two-year period of research and development, Hansen contacted Fort Lupton’s PureHemp Technology, a Colorado business that breaks hemp down into pulp and sugars. PureHemp put him in touch with an Australian firm called Textile and Composite Industries. Hansen investigated a variety of the company’s mobile decorticators and decided on the D8, a machine 22 years in the making.
A decorticator is to hemp stalks what extraction equipment is to cannabis flower. Thanks to the explosion of the commercial cannabis industry, cannabinoid extraction equipment is readily available. But whereas an extractor costs somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars, a full-scale hemp-processing facility can run in the tens of millions.
After shipping costs, the D8 is around $300,000. It’s on the smaller side of decorticators, weighing in at about 5,000 pounds. It can process one to five tons of hemp per hour and can be assembled — or reassembled at a new location — in hours.
“That’s where our process lies —