Hundreds of pounds of industrial hemp from southern Alberta are on a ship to China where it will be used to pave the track for the bobsled and luge runs at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
The hemp shipment, from Canadian Greenfield Technologies’ NForce-Fiber, will be used to reinforce the concrete used in the construction of the Xiaohaituo track near Beijing.
The company’s one-of-a-kind product, NForce-Fiber, has already been used to shore up concrete in numerous swimming pools and skateboard parks throughout North America, according to the company’s webpage.
But their Beijing contract is exciting, said Greenfield’s general manager Stephen Christensen.
“I thought we’d be successful, but there aren’t a lot of concrete projects like a bobsled track,” Christensen told the Calgary Herald News. “We’re getting some international acknowledgment.”
The raw hemp comes in bales from three producers in Canada then undergoes intense engineering at the Calgary facility.
Third-party testing for possible Olympic use was conducted last year in Vancouver, Christensen explained, the trials further confirmed its advantages over concrete reinforcements such as plastic and glass.
“They tried doing it without fiber and got quite the number of cracks and came back to us,” he said. “They’ve got very stringent quality control.”
Industrial hemp’s fiber conforms with the concrete mix and bonds more easily, said Christensen.
“Glass and plastic protrudes, so it’s hard to finish . . . in concrete, the fiber will bridge two sections trying to pull apart from each other.”
The company, which employs 11 people, began researching hemp applications six years ago and produces gardening items, food preservers, beauty products and even cat litter.
Christensen said the material’s growth potential is enormous. The ban on producing industrial hemp was lifted in Canada 20 years ago.
“We’re filling out orders left and right,” said Christensen, adding he and his work colleagues will have added incentive to keep a keen eye on the 2022 Winter Games.
Alberta is considered the hub of Canada’s $200-million hemp industry, which is an international export leader.