HempFlax was founded by Ben Dronkers in 1993, ushering in a new era of European hemp cultivation. From humble beginnings in the Netherlands, HempFlax now has farms in Germany and Romania, too. The company plays a major role in European hemp industry, and is the sole cultivator of hemp for Sensi Seeds’ CBD and hemp products.
Hemp cultivation was once commonplace practise in throughout the world. Nobody knows exactly when hemp made its way to Europe, but hemp cultivation has occurred for at least 700 years in France and Spain. However, along with the rest of the world, the need for hemp lessened after the arrival of steam ships — hemp was replaced by coal. In 1993, the UK legalized hemp cultivation and The Netherlands followed suit in 1994. During that time, the Netherland’s very own hemp manufacturing facility, HempFlax, was founded.
HempFlax places the Netherlands as Europe’s foremost leader in hemp cultivation and fibre production. As its name suggests, hemp isn’t the only plant of interest; flax is too. The two plants are grown primarily for fibre and seed production, and are processed into Europe’s many legal hemp-derived products.
In 2019, HempFlax celebrated 25 years since its first harvest. Despite dips in the hemp industry over the decades, HempFlax remains one of the most influential hemp cultivation facilities in Europe. Let’s check out HempFlax’s journey, from inception to now.
Founded in: 1993
Founded by: Ben Dronkers
CEO: Mark Reinders
HempFlax was founded by Ben Dronkers in 1993 as an initiative to bring hemp fibre back into the European market. HempFlax is a pioneer of European industrial hemp cultivation and processing, and through its initiative, serves both people and the environment.
HempFlax combines tradition with innovative, patented technology to transform hemp into the many hemp-derived products gaining traction in Europe. This includes foodstuffs, fibre for textile production, and even fibres for the horticultural and construction industries. Ultimately, HempFlax is a hemp-solutions based company with a variety of applications, all of which offer sustainable, environmentally friendly and affordable products and solutions to its customers.
Alongside hemp cultivation and processing, HempFlax has also developed and patented its own specialized technology. For example, it has designed an innovative harvester that manages to combine three harvesting operations at once: seeds, stems, and leaves.
HempFlax’s expansion into Germany and Romania
The first HempFlax facility opened in Oude Pekela, the Netherlands. At that time, hemp cultivation and processing took place exclusively in and around Oude Pekela. In 2015, HempFlax expanded internationally into Germany and Romania. HempFlax purchased 550 hectares in Germany and 700 hectares in Romania to add to the 450 hectares in Oude Pekela.
HempFlax invested €5,000,000 into the Romanian hemp market, turning HempFlax into Europe’s leading hemp grower. Less than a year after opening the Romanian facility, HempFlax was awarded the Excellence in Business prize at the Gala Capital Awards evening in Romania. The prize was given in recognition of HempFlax’s investment into the Romanian hemp industry, and the acknowledgement of the importance of this industry.
How does HempFlax use industrial hemp?
As the world continues to confront issues of climate and sustainability, there is an ever-increasing need for sustainable fuel, construction materials, and food crops. There are many organizations fighting for hemp’s place in the modern economy, and HempFlax is one of them.
Although there is still much research taking place, hemp is gaining traction as a possible alternative to coal as biofuel; as a construction material; and as a superfood. Its fast growing nature (from seed to harvest in less than six months), its resilience, and its ability to grow in otherwise non-arable soil makes it the ideal crop for the future. Let’s have a look at some of the modern applications of hemp.
1. Hemp is a superfood
Using hemp for food was well known to our ancestors, but demand for hemp cultivation dropped during prohibition, and hemp food was rarely eaten. However, legalisation successfully ushered in a new era of hemp cultivation for food.
Of all the nutraceuticals, the number one food to consume is hempseed. Hemp can also be processed into a variety of different CBD products. Hempseed is a great source of protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids.
You can find out more about hemp’s use as a superfood in this article.
2. Hemp is a construction material
There are multiple ways to use hemp as a construction material, but its primary application is lime hemp. Lime hemp is made by mixing hemp fibres with limestone. It is also known as hempcrete.
It’s not just hemp’s sustainability as a plant that makes it a good construction material; it has a lot more to boast about. Hempcrete has a high thermal mass, moisture-regulating properties, and is flame-resistant. Theoretically, hempcrete could be combined with beams made of other biodegradable materials to create a fully-fledged eco house.
Hemp has even been used as insulation by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. When their high speed vessel needed some insulation, they asked HempFlax. Using hemp, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were able to insulate their vessels to prevent condensation on the roof, which had been falling on the crew members as freezing drips.
In March 2018, HempFlax held a Building with Hemp fair, where it revealed some of its technologies and their applications in hemp construction materials. For HempFlax, this was an opportunity to share some of its activities with the world and the potential for hemp as a construction material of the future.
In May, 2020, HempFlax purchased Thermo-Natur, a German insulation manufacturer. HempFlax has recognized and responded to the increasing demand for natural building materials. This movement into launching another division gives HempFlax the opportunity to have a seed-to-shelf business model. The hemp insulation industry offers enormous growth potential as climate change necessitates the needs for sustainable building materials.
You can find out more information about hemp’s use as a construction material in this article.
For some real-life show and tell, see this video of the 2018 HempFlax Building With Hemp fair:
3. Hemp as a biofuel
The concept of biofuel rests in converting biomass (plant material) into ethanol or diesel. If hemp is grown as biofuel feedstock, it can theoretically be converted to either of these two biofuels. Hempseed typically yields around 780 litres of oil per hectare, all of which can be used to create biofuel.
Although this is significantly less than palm oil and coconut oil, it’s considerably more than rapeseed, peanut, and sunflower oils. Biofuel can be used to operate cars, machinery, and electricity.
You can find out more information about hemp as a biofuel in this article.
4. Other applications of hemp
HempFlax and the future of hemp
There’s no doubt that over the years HempFlax has had to overcome obstacles. At the same time, HempFlax has dedicated itself to bringing hemp technology and products to the world. And as the world continues to chase sustainable fuel, food, and building materials, HempFlax will be there proudly representing hemp.
It’s a continuing challenge for companies to cultivate and manufacture hemp products, as we are only in the preliminary stages of understanding how to integrate hemp into the modern world. We wasted precious decades of research during prohibition, and as a result, brave companies like HempFlax took the stand for research and technology. We look forward to the future of HempFlax and its role in the future of hemp, as well as the future of sustainability.