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What is Biomass?

Hemp Biomass

Veteran executive of both the biomass and hemp industry blasted the use of the term “biomass” by the nescient hemp industry during an interview with Cannabis Tech Media. 


“Increasingly, I see companies refer to the dried hemp flowers as ‘biomass’ as they seek to buy or sell hemp bud, but the correct definition of biomass is the stalk and potentially spent bud (post extraction),” noted Ask A Hempster host Carell, also known as Carl Lehrburger.  “Typically ‘biomass’ refers to non-food plant matter, including hemp and corn stalk residues, straws like wheat straw, coconut husks and seed hull, and woody biomass, which are all distinguished from the hemp flower and hemp seed, corn, and wheat kernels", he continued. 

Technically, lignocellulosic biomass, which refers to organic matter composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and biomass, have become synonymous with a broad range of plant-based materials. In the municipal solid waste stream, biomass, or “green waste,” consists of food, and often leaf and yard residuals, colloquial with waste stream.

Carell should know. Along with brother Ed Lehrburger, he founded PureVision Technology, Inc. in 1992 to convert biomass into valuable bio-products.  The pioneering company developed, and is scaling up, a new biomass conversion technology at their Fort Lupton, Colorado headquarters which rapidly turns biomass (non-food plant matter) into three intermediate biomass materials:

Cellulose (fiber and pulps)

Lignin (20% of the stalk)

Sugars (the two primary sugars in the stalk are xylose and glucose)

These intermediates are the foundation for the plant-based bio-economy, and each is the starting point for formulating and producing tens of thousands of bioproducts (as distinguished from fossil-based products).

“As someone with a background in the resource recovery, recycling, and hemp industry for decades, my advice for the hemp industry is to be more specific when referring to the major parts of the amazing hemp plant. For example ‘dried CBD bud’ refers to the dried flower and bud fraction without stalks and minimal stems; for example, <85% dried CBD-rich, low THC (prefer Cherry Wine) bud”, he said. “Looking at the cannabis plant we can further distinguish (1) marijuana, pot or ‘THC-rich’ varieties compared to ‘hemp’, high CBD, Low THC cannabis cultivars; (2) the three primary fractions (flowers, seeds, stalks without root); and (3) an application, market or product such as fiber, seed oil, cannabinoid extract,” Lehrburger stated.

For example, a broker seeking to purchase hemp cannabis for producing CBD-rich extracts for consumer products could write: “Seeking 1 ton/month supply for January and February of dried CBD flower/bud; specifically a high CBD (minimum 6% CBD), low THC (below 0.3% but above 0.1% THC) strain. Organic preferred.”

A grower might state: “Available in November-January - 8,000 pounds/mo., threshed and ~80% dry CBD rich, low-THC bud for CBDs. Grown in Colorado in organic (non-certified) soil, Cherry Wine and Auto-II cultivars available for delivery in 200-pound poly bags.”

A processor, on the other hand, might request: “Seeking 10 tons of dried whole hemp stalks for milling into hemp pellets. Cannabis seed and fiber varieties acceptable but cannabinoid cultivars (marijuana and CBDs variety stalks) are not.  Preferred delivery in round bales but will accept small square bales to (address). Biomass should be free of mold, grit, minimal (>.1%) non-hemp organic matter, and at least 85% dry.”

“If we choose to refer to any part of the miraculous hemp plant as ‘biomass’ I’d suggest this refer to the nonfood and non-medicinal portion, primarily stalks, stems and remaining leaves.” 

“But for now, let’s get clear,” Carell reinforced. “Don’t use ‘biomass’ when referring to dried hemp bud and flowers for extraction applications, unless you want to come across as uninformed.”

 How much oil can you get from an acre of hemp? 

 8,000 pounds of hemp seed per acre. When cold-pressed, the 8,000 pounds of hemp seed yield over 300 gallons of hemp seed oil and a byproduct of 6,000 pounds of high protein hemp flour. Seed oils are both a food and a biodiesel fuel. 

 What is CBD biomass? 

 Hemp Biomass refers to bulk hemp dried plant material intended for processing to produce hemp oil, CBD extracts, fibre, bast and other components. 



By Michael Gordon / October 10, 2018 

The first question many hemp farmers and processors have is how to establish a fair market price for hemp biomass.  This challenge exists because of the inherent nature of the industry. We need to better understand the relationship between supply and demand in order to determine a fair market price.

Right now, the biggest question is whether there is enough biomass to supply hemp processors at full capacity.  The answer will impact current and future pricing of hemp biomass, but this is a complicated subject due to the lack of traceability in the Hemp industry.

Our industry lacks baseline data such as total biomass produced and total sales of CBD products to end consumers.  In addition, the 2018 Farm Bill will have a tremendous impact on demand. The answer to supply and demand in 2018/2019 is evolving as market speculation drives the price of the first biomass sales, we look into three important questions, and analyze the factors driving the market.   


Currently the spot price for finished, dried biomass lots intended for extraction is between $3.50 – $4.75 / % / lb depending on volume and quality.  This price is being influenced by a few factors.  The first factor is that early flowering varieties of hemp are harvested.  This eases the pressures on processors who need to procure biomass supply.  However, the processors should be competing over this early material, and with prices in the $3.50 / $4.50 range, this indicates they have an alternative source of CBD or that the buying market is not overly competitive.  To me, this is an early warning sign that demand from processors will not keep up with the supply of hemp.

The price of biomass is also being driven by farmers who are avoiding future pricing uncertainty.  Farmers have a fear that there will be more biomass than can be sold in 2018 / 2019. If this is the case, prices will plummet because not all farmers will be able to sell their crop and competition to monetize crops will be intense.  Because of this fear, securing a contract early in the season insulates a farm from pricing volatility in hemp biomass. We suggest farmers consider pre-selling a portion of their crop to hedge against price fluctuation and create guaranteed revenue.  

If you have 2017 material, SELL IT NOW.  I asked our Washington Cannabis team about the relationship between extraction material from 2017 versus the new 2018 crop and here is what they said.  Expect to take a 50%-65% haircut on prices. “A couple weeks ago it would have been about .50 vs .25/g for 2018 untested to 2017 untested. Right now we’re probably looking at .45/g vs .15/g for the same..” -Tyler Lamont


We feel that prices will drop over the next 3 months on average to $3.25 / % / lb.  This pricing adjustment will be driven by three factors. First, the number of processors who are buying new material will diminish with established contract buys.  With better developed infrastructure among processors, future agreements and contract buys will become a more popular trend.  With many of these businesses having secured their orders, there will be fewer biomass orders to fill. Demand for biomass will decrease, and the price will follow.  

Second, farmers will be facing a market that is flooded with a year’s worth of hemp biomass.  This material will enter the market at the same time, and the market simply cannot sell a year’s worth of hemp in 3 months. Historically, this oversupply historically will drop prices. 

The third factor that will move prices is the fear of oversupply.  With the flooded market, farmers and processors will both wonder, do we have more hemp than then industry can consume?  This would indicate that some farmers will be unable to sell their crop, experiencing a total loss. This fear will generate a selling spree, and I think this will occur in 3 months.  This is compounded by the holiday season of November – December when business tends to stagnate due to vacations. Once we endure this first sales cycle as an industry, we expect prices to stabilize.


This is the biggest question that will unravel over the next 12 months.  Did the USA farmers produce enough biomass to fulfill orders from processors.  We examine a few driving factors to get insight into the next year in CBD. First, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill will have an impact on demand.  We expect this bill to pass in the lame duck session at the end of the year.  We saw the 2014 Farm Bill expire on September 30th, 2018. This is not the first time a Farm Bill has lapsed, but this is the first time the hemp industry has been on the cusp of legalization.  

The immediate impacts of the passage of the new Farm Bill will be an increase in visibility and demand for CBD products. There is a caveat, we need to keep our eye on the rulemaking process and the time it takes to adapt and adopt the new rules and regulations.  For example, California Department of Health issued rules forbidding processors from using CBD as an additive in any food product. I expect to see other states follow suit and implement state level oversight on Hemp and CBD, similar to the Cannabis industry.  

We also need to keep an eye on the development of processing infrastructure for zero THC products.  This includes zero THC distillate and CBD isolate, which will be the dominate products supply the whole CBD industry due to compliance with the threshold of .3% d9THC due to federal laws.  We expect to see a bottleneck in the processing power of the industry which will limit the amount of biomass that can be processed into finished goods.  Think about Purina and Coca Cola entering the market. What about Neutrogena? Large established brands with distribution networks will dramatically increase demand for these products.

The last factor to be aware of is the import and export industry.  This is very new subject, and I expect there to be a delay in the rulemaking process for a few crop that can take a long time.  With that being said, CBD isolate has been imported into the USA for many years. This is because imported CBD isolate begins it’s life cycle in the USA as CBD, and not as a hemp product, hence this is the only “legal” CBD in our market.  Import and export will have a big impact on the USA market. We know that China is working on large scale extractions, and remediation labs for heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants. While Chinese produced CBD isolate has a bad wrap due to contamination – this will change over time, and the public perception of an inferior product will wane over the coming years.

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