Alberta Leads the Way with Hemp Processor Upgrade

The province is funding upgrades to a world-class, one-of-a-kind fibre-processing plant in Vegreville to create opportunities for diversification and jobs in primary and value-added agriculture sectors.

MLA Jessica Littlewood of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, meets with InnoTech Alberta representatives and partners at expanded hemp processing facility.

The $800,000 investment in new equipment for the decortication line will help secure Alberta’s leadership in the growing hemp industry and improve the quality and efficiency of hemp and flax fibres produced at the facility.

Improved fibres provide the foundation for a multitude of products, including green construction, automotive parts, erosion control, land reclamation, textiles, sustainable packaging and materials for the oil and gas industry.

A unique facility in an emerging market

Established in 2010 with a $3.9-million Government of Alberta investment, the Vegreville fibre decortication processing plant is the only one of its kind in the world.

Serving as a catalyst for industry growth, the pilot plant has been instrumental in advancing Alberta’s potential in the emerging hemp market. The facility is a critical bridge for industry, supporting research and product development.

“The equipment upgrades at this unique facility will help ensure that Alberta is at the cutting edge of the growing hemp fibre sector. The improvements in production efficiency and quality will provide companies with the raw material they need to create high-quality, eco-friendly products while also providing further opportunities for Alberta farmers.”

~Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

“Developing and expanding the hemp value chain provides an alternative cash crop for farmers in our area. It’s another proof that our government is on the right path when it comes to diversifying our economy and providing additional opportunities for our producers.”

~Jessica Littlewood, MLA, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville

“As operator of the decortication facility, InnoTech Alberta is pleased to continue its longstanding relationship with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. This upgrade integrates with our unique seed to final product program and strengthens our continued support of the rapidly growing and renewable hemp and biofibre industry in Alberta.”

~Ross Chow, managing director, InnoTech Alberta

“Our scientists and engineers work with customized test batches of processed agricultural fibres from the decortication facility in Vegreville to create an ever-expanding range of products, with the potential to solve critical problems facing industries worldwide. Our Terrafibre products use Canadian-grown fibres that are mainly decorticated and cleaned at the Vegreville facility and then manufactured in Drayton Valley. We are selling our high-performance and environmentally responsible products to green building, automotive, erosion control and horticultural markets.”

~Dan Madlung, CEO BioComposites Group

“The business and technical services and high-quality hemp materials from the decortication facility in Vegreville were deciding factors in choosing to locate our operations in Alberta. JBF employs over a dozen people and has invested over $5 million in our operations in Airdrie. We now have Zero Carbon builds in British Columbia and soon in Alberta. We have been recognized for our leading-edge products by the Canada Green Building Council. We will continue to invest more as we expand our production capacity and develop new products.”

~Terry Radford, director, Just BioFiber Structural Solutions Corp.

Quick facts

  • Hemp is a multi-functional crop with different end uses, including seeds for food and oil, fibres for composite material and bio-active chemicals for ingredients in the food and personal health-care industries.
  • Decortication is the first step in processing which separates hemp into its valuable fractions –for textiles, composites, absorbents, building materials, animal bedding, mulch and more.
  • Alberta is the second largest hemp production jurisdiction in North America with 44,684 acres in 2017.
  • In 2016, the Canadian hemp industry was valued at $340 million and is anticipated to reach a market value of $1 billion by 2023.
  • Commercialization of hemp fibre for various applications is gaining momentum in Alberta with 34 new hemp fibre-based products being successfully introduced to market in the past year.