NorQuest College runs its Industrial Hemp Program completely online
By Diego Flammini
An Alberta school is offering an introduction to the hemp industry for anyone whose interested.
NorQuest College’s online Industrial Hemp Program consists of five modules. They include an introduction to hemp farming, harvest management, and the difference between organic and conventional production.
The enrollment fee is $125. Students have a limited amount of time after making their payment to complete their coursework, said Andrea Eriksson, the program developer with NorQuest College.
“Once students sign on, they have 90 days to finish the program,” she told Farms.com. “They’ll be able to access all the videos and materials they need. We have it programmed in our system to know if they’ve completed the modules. If they have, then they receive a certificate at the end.”
The college is developing other course delivery options.
While the online version is convenient, farmers also enjoy in-person learning environments, Eriksson said.
“Around mid-March, we’re looking to bring a facilitator role right into the online community,” she said. “They would be available to answer questions and encourage dialogue. We find that, with farmers, there’s a trend to have in-person connections.”
NorQuest College developed the program with the help of industry experts.
A film crew documented the work of Byron James, farm manager at InnoTech Alberta. The organization provides several services including crop research.
“We were able to show them the seeding techniques, what’s needed to seed and what’s required to grow a crop of hemp in the field,” he told Farms.com. “We also run a pilot decortication facility, so we provided information on that process.”
Decortication refers to the separation of hemp straw into two types of fibre. Processors can use hurd fibres to make building materials and bedding. And processors can use bast fibres to produce pillow cases and other textiles.
The online program is a sign Canada is open to the industrial hemp industry.
Farmers planted hemp on more than 138,000 acres of land in 2017, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada says.
More education could increase interest in hemp markets, James said.
“Acreages are still small, and the market is mostly driven by the food industry and health food stores,” he said. “It’s always been a chicken-and-egg scenario. Farmers wouldn’t grow hemp for fibre because they didn’t have anywhere to process it. And end users weren’t making anything out of hemp because they didn’t have the fibre.
“There’s been a huge knowledge burst of what can be done with industrial hemp fibres. Hopefully, with the online program and commercial decortication facilities, the hemp industry will see more growth.”