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I was recently on the East Coast visiting a couple of potential sites for my new company. During my visit I had the opportunity to talk with several investors and entrepreneurs looking to move away from the cultivation space into offering post-harvest processes under the “As-A-Service” model.
It is difficult to believe how much disinformation, malarkey and plain old Androgenic Bovine Manure (aka Bullshit) we still have around simple facts and figures when it comes to parametrize outdoor cultivation of hemp and potential production of CBD oils and isolates.
I am not a farmer. I have never been in a hemp field but I am a plant physiologist and I like to work around Fermi Problems  for fun. I don’t want to prove or disprove any particular figure or rule of thumb, I just want to share with the network a simple exercise hoping to start a conversation. I welcome all comments and corrections from anyone with first hand experience, expertise or reliable sources.
The question I would like to answer is: Could a “10,000 kg of CBD isolate per month purchase order” be fulfilled using only outdoor hemp grown in the USA?
Let’s start by trying to establish how many hemp plants (or how much biomass) can be cultivated per surface area. Canadian provinces like Alberta and Manitoba have very compressive programmes for cultivation of industrial hemp. The websites of both programmes offer very detailed numbers of expected yields depending of the crop modality (fiber, seed or mixed) [2, 3]). Unfortunately, none of these numbers really apply to current practices in outdoor hemp operations specifically seeded for production of CBD-rich cultivars.
Since plants growing in legal outdoor operations are treated as small trees in an orchard (i.e., they are properly irrigated and fertilized), a plant density of 1 plant per m2 could be used as a reference (this density has been reported for well-cared Cannabis plants growing outdoors [4,5]. At this density well-cared plants can develop large, multi-branched canopies. Using this density, we should expect 4,046 plants per acre. Well-cared Cannabis plants grown outdoors at this density regularly yield 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 – 1kg) of fresh bud per plant [4, 5]. These numbers bring us to a total yield of 2,023 to 4,046 kg of bud per acre. For simplicity let’s settled for 3,000 kg per acre .
Now, before extraction and purification of this biomass could occur the biomass needs to be dried. The Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis in the Netherlands suggest that saleable material represents about 30 per cent of dried plant weight and about 8 per cent-10 per cent of wet plant weight . As the biomass will not be stored we could assume 80% loss by drying instead of the after mentioned 90%. Hence, we are now down to 600 kg per acre of dry bud ready for extraction. Assuming a 10% CBD content (10% could be seen as an unrealistic high average for wet material but seems to be a good reference for dry material ) we now have 60 kg of CBD available per acre. With a wet dream efficiency of 90% for the extraction and purification process you end with 54 kg of pure CBD isolate per acre.
Let’s go back to the 10,000 kg of CBD isolate per month PO. This equals 120,000 kg of isolate a year. Current estimates suggest there are around 26,000 acres dedicated to hemp production in the US . Therefore, the entire production of CBD isolate in the US, assuming every single acre is dedicated to CBD-rich cultivars, could yield around 1.4 million kg.
So, fulfillment of a single PO for 10,000 kg per month of CBD isolate will require around 10% of the entire production of the US assuming every available acre is dedicated to it. I better put my money in that escrow account before someone else take this opportunity ?.
The numbers above are just Back of the napkin calculations. I really would like to start a conversation to improve these numbers. I welcome comments and corrections from anyone with first hand experience, expertise or reliable sources.
 Caulkins, JP. 2010. Estimated Cost of Production for Legalized Cannabis. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2010/RAND_WR764.pdf
 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. World Drug Report 2016. https://www.unodc.org/pdf/WDR_2006/wdr2006_chap2_annex2.pdf
 This is a very liberal estimate. More realistic estimates will suggest around 1,250 kg per acre assuming one harvest per year (https://www.cannabiscomplianceinc.com/farming-cannabis-in-canada/).
 Jikomes and Zoorob. 2018. The Cannabinoid Content of Legal Cannabis in Washington State Varies Systematically Across Testing Facilities and Popular Consumer Products (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852027/).
 State Hemp Legislation. https://www.votehemp.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Vote-Hemp-2017-US-Hemp-Crop-Report.pdf.
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