An international team has developed integrated portable hemp processing technology that can capitalize on the entire hemp plant while supporting economically challenged communities and helping to mitigate climate change through regenerative agriculture.
SmartBox, a self-contained processing system that fits in a shipping container, is by London-based e-HempHouse, a partnership among British entrepreneur Peter Miles, U.S.-based engineer Andy Neal, and Zambian agricultural specialist Steven Putter.
The system, invented by Neal, was developed by a team at New York’s Binghamton University and is planned for deployment and testing over the summer of 2022.
The SmartBox incorporates a decorticator to separate hemp stems into fiber and hurd, and seed processing equipment for food products; the unit includes oil pressing technology for hempseed oil which can fuel an internal generator that serves as a power source to support irrigation, refrigeration, and lighting.
Miles said his team is also developing alternative fuel options, and the rolling micro-factory is designed to draw energy from solar panels integrated into the unit.
The company is also working on a methodology that will allow eHempHouse to sell carbon credits either direct to corporate partners or through the voluntary carbon markets; that system is to include a live feed that tracks CO2 based on the weight of the hemp harvest being processed through the Smartbox system.
A data collection system tracks meteorological information and soil data.
Miles said the company has done extensive on-farm testing of the individual processing components in New York and is looking to raise up to £1.5 million (€1.8m/$2.0.m) this spring for production of the first two units in the USA. One will be sent to Zambia and the other will be a truck-mounted unit to demo in North America, Miles said.
Miles sees strong market potential in the UK and other parts of Europe where farms tend to be smaller. More importantly, the mobile unit can bring growth to economically challenged rural communities in other parts of the world.
eHempHouse will demonstrate that potential in a 2023 pilot project planned with the Zambian government in each of the country’s ten provinces. Ten SmartBoxes will be used to process 100 hectares of hemp grown in each province.
The company already has a 1,000-acre farm in Zambia where it is teaching regenerative agricultural practices to local farmers, communities, and charities, transferring knowledge and skills in organic farming techniques.
SmartBox was in the 2021 Cleantech Open accelerator program, and Miles made a presentation about the technology at the COP26 conference in Glasgow last November.