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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
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Niagara College now licensed to grow industrial hemps
Industrial hemp transplants take root in the Niagara College greenhouse. Niagara College recently secured a licence to grow industrial hemp for academic use in its Commercial Cannabis Production program. (Supplied)


Commercial Cannabis Production program secures licence to grow industrial hemp

Niagara College’s commercial cannabis production program has been licensed by Health Canada to cultivate industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp is a specific type of Cannabis sativa L. plant grown for a variety of uses, including home insulation, textiles, paper, biofuel, cannabidiol (CBD) for medical uses, and even food. It differs from cannabis produced for recreational purposes because it’s non-intoxicating, containing 0.3 per cent or less THC.

Getting the green light for hemp cultivation within the program is significant because it provides hands-on learning and academic research opportunities that will enable students to advance Canada’s burgeoning hemp and cannabis industries when they graduate, the college said in announcing the move.

Students will study plant genetics, seeding and germination, flower identification, harvesting and drying hemp.

With industrial hemp part of the program’s portfolio, students will also learn how to grow cannabis in the industry’s three sectors: in a controlled agriculture environment (in the program’s CannaBunker), in greenhouses and outdoors.

“This is a natural progression for us. The crops we’re hoping to grow in the future will provide opportunities for students to participate in all growing sectors,” said Alan Unwin, the college’s dean of business, tourism and the environment.

“The uses and the industries for the hemp plant and the cannabis plant are quite different so this will help them when they graduate. It’s staying on top of things that we’re seeing in the industry. Our responsibility as a college is to meet that demand for the labour market.”

Production of industrial hemp is already under way at the college. This summer, students grew a small field crop in the college’s hop yard. The experience exposed them to growing hemp transplants from seed, germination rates, plant maintenance and hemp flower identification. 

“It provides students with an opportunity to gain hands-on knowledge of outdoor hemp production,” said Laurie Zuber, a horticulture technologist with the commercial cannabis. “This is a good introduction crop.”