Hemp North® pioneers hemp growing in Northumberland and brings British-grown hemp seed products to UK market using post-harvest equipment from McArthur BDC

After completing a final dissertation in 2019 on the feasibility of growing hemp as a break crop, for an MSc in Rural Business Management, Hugh Wrangham realised that on paper, hemp ticked all the boxes. He and his business partner, Alistair McLeod, decided to found Hemp North and give hemp growing a go.

After obtaining the necessary licences Hemp North, located in North Northumberland not far from the Scottish border, sowed its first hemp crop in 2021. The farm is approximately 600 ha of various soil types and grows predominantly winter cereals, OSR and field beans now in rotation with industrial hemp. 

“Our objective was to show that hemp is an environmentally friendly and viable diversification option for conventional family farms,” explained Wrangham. “Grown as a sustainable break crop hemp delivers four times the CO2 sequestration compared with the same area of forestry, and delivers an additional revenue stream through the sale of British-grown highly nutritious ‘super-food’ hemp seed products.”

Having made the decision to outsource the production of hemp seed oil, Wrangham looked at ways of dehulling the hemp on farm and considered several solutions that would deliver hemp hearts. 

In addition, Wrangham needed to consider how the harvested hemp seed would be dried and cleaned before dehulling could take place. 

“To overcome the challenge of how to dry our hemp seeds quickly to preserve the quality, McArthur BDC supplied us with a Mecmar drier. They were really helpful and easy to communicate with as we discussed different drier options,” continued Wrangham.  

Wrangham and McLeod then visited McArthur BDC’s depot in Flixborough to discuss cleaning and dehulling options with director Scott McArthur.

“Once Scott had shown us the JK Machinery range of robust, yet easy to operate, cost effective post-harvest equipment, including cleaning and dehulling solutions, we understood how McArthur BDC’s knowledge combined with the JK Machinery range, enables farm diversification projects like ours, to get off the ground,” added Wrangham.

On a relatively low budget and with a lack of knowledge of the necessary process but with ‘amazing’ help and advice from Scott McArthur, Hemp North designed a DIY dehulling facility.

“Working with Scott, we kept the facility modular and relied on gravity feeds and good old-fashioned manual labour to transfer the hemp seed between different processing stages. This allowed us to trial the system, learn the methodology and constantly tweak the parameters to improve yields and efficiencies,” continued Wrangham.

Importantly, this gave Hemp North the freedom to process to order and carefully control quality, whilst developing close relationships with its early customers.

The post-harvest processing starts with the harvested hemp seeds being dried, if necessary, in the Mecmar drier. Once dried, the hemp seeds are cleaned and graded via JK Machinery’s JCC 05 VibroCompact vibratory sieve cleaner before going into store.

As demand dictates the hemp seeds are taken from store and then passed through JK Machinery’s JHI 05 Impact Dehuller. The JHI 05 accelerates the grain which is thrown against the hard surface, the impact causes the grain to shed its outer shell or hull. McArthur BDC’s experience has shown that the JHI 05 Impact Dehuller is the best fit for dehulling hemp seeds.

The material exiting the dehuller contains hemp hearts (sometimes referred to as kernels), the empty hulls and whole hemp seeds. This mix is then passed back through JK Machinery’s VibroCompact sieve cleaner to remove and separate any whole hemp seeds which are collected and put back through the dehuller.

After passing through the sieve cleaner the remaining material consists of hemp hearts with a small number of empty shells or hulls. This mix then goes over a JK Machinery JGC 03 Gravity Concentrator designed to separate material based on its specific gravity i.e. weight and density.

Having gone through the gravity concentrator the hemp seed is cleaned leaving hemp hearts to be stored.

“McArthur BDC’s expertise has been invaluable. Before we were entirely sure how the post-harvest processing would work, we took some hemp seed to McArthur BDC and Scott dehulled it for us as a trial using the JK Machinery. He pretty much taught us the process in one afternoon!” said Wrangham.

This successful trial was key because it de-risked North Hemp’s investment in the JK Machinery by reducing the guesswork around the processing. Wrangham and McLeod could see that North Hemp would be able to viably produce the hemp hearts which it needed. 

Despite the steep learning curve of the first year, and the time Hemp North spent perfecting the post-harvest process, it has quickly established contracts and sales. The company is rapidly building up its e-commerce site to handle direct sales to consumers, and is seeing growing demand in its wholesale business with online health food stores, local shops and zero-waste stores.

“Now in year two we have begun to automate our dehulling facility. This enables us to increase output and produce dehulled hemp hearts at a volume which allows us to offer increasingly good value to our customers. 

“We are continuing to work with McArthur BDC so that we can take advantage of its knowledge and expertise in the supply of seed handling equipment. The McArthur team will work with us to deliver the capability we need to efficiently dry and grade harvested hemp, in larger quantities, on farm. This will mean we can grow more hemp!” concluded Wrangham.
About McArthur BDC:
McArthur BDC is a specialist engineering firm which designs and installs grain processing and storage systems. The company develops, builds and maintains the food and feed processing systems that are a critical step in the food supply chain. McArthur BDC works closely with its customers to deliver equipment and turnkey projects that strengthen their businesses and ensures peace of mind. McArthur BDC has been a McArthur BDC Ltd partner for over 10 years.
For more information visit: https://www.mcarthuragriculture.co.uk/ or call +44 (0) 1724 747110

Media contact:
Sarah Chidgey, ChidgeyPR, tel: +44 (0) 7795 288302 | email: sarah@chidgeypr.co.uk