Hemp Vs Hunger
Can hemp help solve the global food crisis?
It already is.
“Hemp is an amazing plant,” reported the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently. “It uses a fraction of the water needed to grow cotton, every part is useful, and it absorbs more carbon dioxide per hectare than other crops and most trees. Cultivated for thousands of years, the eco-friendly plant can be used in food products, biofuels, textiles and even building materials.”
As awareness of hemp’s benefits increases, the global market could hit $18.6 billion by 2027 – almost four times the amount in 2020, a new UNCTAD report said.
“Unlike the most commonly farmed crops, hemp is much more resistant and adaptable to environmental factors, making it possible to successfully grow even in high-risk farming areas such as colder climate zones,” Jürgen Jürgenson, CEO and co-founder of sustainable food company Naturist, told vegworldmag.com. “This resilience makes it possible to grow food which otherwise could not exist, efficiently increasing food production and ongoing supply in a sustainable way.”
“If we continue at the current pace, our environment, and eventually humanity, will suffer devastating consequences,” added Taavid Mikomägi, another co-founder. “We founded Naturist with the aim of discovering a solution that is both sustainable and nutritious. Hemp meets both criteria. In terms of its nutritional value, hemp has a favorable fatty acid profile that improves heart health and longevity and reduces cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and obesity. Hemp contains high levels of omega-3s that tend to be low in factory-farmed livestock. It provides a sustainable, healthy food source that is currently unutilized due to misconceptions and lack of infrastructure.”
“In the era of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), useful plants which provide valuable industrial outputs and at the same time pose less impact on the environment should be explored,” noted MDPI.com, a platform for peer-reviewed, scientific openaccess journals, recently. “Hemp seems one of the most relevant gluten-free crop plants to meet such requirements.”
Indeed, hemp’s high nutritional value can be compared to that of soy, it continued. “Moreover, almost the whole body of the hemp plant has a wide array of utility: industrial production of food, fiber, and construction materials. In view of environmental sustainability, hemp requires less pesticides or water in cultivation compared to cotton, a representative fiber plant. Recent application research of hemp protein in food processing includes plant milk, emulsifiers, fortification of gluten-free bread, plantbased meat production, as well as membrane formation.”
LOOKING FOR INNOVATION
As food shortages grow, the world is looking to innovative food producers. One of them is plant-based and allergenfree innovator Nepra Foods, which is addressing the rising, global epidemic of food allergies. The Centennial, CO-based company recently launched its ProPasta line at the latest Natural Foods Expo. The brand is a frozen entrée line utilizing the functionality of its proprietary ingredients in pastas, soft cheeses, and meat analogues.
At the core of Nepra's offerings is its proprietary Textured Hemp Protein (THPTM), which is viewed as a game changer for the plant-based food industry. Nepra has gone on to include it as an ingredient in ProPasta, and has announced beef-, chicken- and pork-flavored plant-based meats made from THPTM.
"Customers will be amazed by the authentic tastes and textures of our new lineup of allergen-free plant-based meat analogs," said Chadwick White, Nepra’s co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer in a release. "We are convinced that the nutritional and environmental advantages of hemp protein will revolutionize the food industry and proud that Nepra is taking a leading role in bringing healthy and sustainable options to restaurants."
"My involvement in the natural products industry for 15 years means I have personally experienced and witnessed many exciting product launches; ProPasta's national debut on eCommerce platforms is the most exciting one to date," said Nepra's Vice President of CPG Sales, Kate Cash. Her team has created what she calls “the most innovative, nutritious, and delicious meals with three 'first to market' plant-based and allergen-free elements: a ricotta ravioli, a proprietary hemp meatball & a delicious hemp pasta that microwaves."
To help countries exploit the economic and environmental benefits of industrial hemp, UNCTAD recommends the following steps:
• All countries should clarify the legal status of hemp compared to cannabis.
• Governments and industry should understand how production could be constrained by the rules of potential export markets.
• Developing countries should promote regional cooperation to establish viable and sustainable value chains for hemp based on a whole-of-plant approach.
• In most cases, developing countries should base their plans on a local network of farmers and businesses that can provide raw hemp and first-processing services.
• Countries should define and adopt quality standards to ease access to international markets and also promote quality products for domestic markets.
“With its easy cultivation and vast environmental and economic potential, industrial hemp cultivation can be the way forward for the growth of sustainable value chains in local and regional markets for many developing countries,” the UNCTAD report concluded.