After its legalization at the federal level in the United States, hemp has grown more popular among both producers and consumers. Its versatility makes it even more alluring as it can be used to produce oilseed or fiber used in textile industries. However, clarity is yet to be achieved for certain cannabinoids, including CBD. For this reason, the hemp industry has no clear operating guidelines from the FDA.
The lack of a grounded foundation for this plant negatively affects its general performance in the market. The inconsistency in its production and good manufacturing practices allow substandard products into the market.
Unfortunately, consumers are the ones who fall prey to poor quality substances, including those that have failed the Microbial Contamination test. Having an insight into where the products originate from and understanding the hemp supply chain helps you make informed decisions in your purchase.
What does the hemp supply chain involve?
For profound mastering of the hemp supply chain, you should be conversant with the general meaning of the term. A supply chain refers to the whole process of production, manufacturing, distribution, and wholesale or retail sales of the final goods.
Numerous products, including textiles and lumber products, trace back to a similar process. Other factors such as the growth and processing of the plant determine the quality of the end substance. If CBD gummies are your top choice after a hectic day at work, below is information to help you understand their journey from start to finish.
The processes from farming to the final product
The two different approaches employed in hemp farming include agricultural and horticultural cultivation. Most farmers who use field or agricultural cultivation engage in large-scale agriculture. They produce commodities hence opt for a cheaper way to improve their profit margins.
The seeds needed for field farming are usually cheaper, pest and drought-resistant, and easy to cultivate. For this reason, GMOs are a to-go-to option for them. Conventional farmers don’t prioritize other factors such as plant quality due to the multiple processing steps necessary after harvesting.
Location may also not be essential as hemp can naturally occur in almost any environment. All these elements put together work toward cutting on expenses and increasing yield. Unlike agricultural cultivation, horticultural farming focuses on quality and environmental preservation. From planting, seeds are exposed to the proper environmental conditions and kept away from contaminants, including industrial pollutants.
The type of farming practice employed dictates the choice of extraction material used. Large-scale farmers use machinery to harvest and grind the plants into aerial parts as a cost reduction method. Since the produce is numerous, carbon dioxide extracts terpenes and cannabinoids due to its cost-effective nature.
However, farmers focused on plant quality do not use machines to cut out the plants. Components such as flavonoids and terpenes are found in glandular hairs of the flower and not the entire plant. Since the flowers are delicate, they are harvested by hand. While handpicking can be tedious, the end product is usually of higher quality than those harvested by machine.
Post extraction processing
In most cases, carrier oil is used to dilute hemp after extraction or the latter is sometimes used in its concentrated state. Several steps are involved in breaking down and purifying the product depending on use, quality, and condition. These steps include:
- Winterization. It involves the use of ethanol and below zero temperatures to eliminate lipids and waxes. On the downside, the process reduces levels of terpene and chlorophyll.
- Distillation. Boiling removes impurities and retains essential compounds that are left in the product.
- Chromatography. Here is where further purification of certain compounds, including CBD and THC, takes place. The molecules are combined into one and sometimes enhanced using nanotechnology.
A limited number of hemp farmers pass this stage, making it an essential step in the supply chain. Testing is crucial to ensure transparency in the hemp industry and safety among its consumers.
Depending on a state’s requirements, manufacturers must test their products in laboratories and complete test results. The presence of cannabinoids and terpenes signifies quality, while contaminants such as solvents, pesticides, and metals lower the quality of the industrial hemp product.
As hemp continues to gain momentum in the mainstream, its production standards are rising. Consumers can expect quality products in the market with a more steady supply chain.