La Chanvriere de L'Aube

        It may be difficult to have a clear idea of what La Chanvriere de L’Aube (LCDA) is and does. Some may imagine it is a group of "fresh hemp activists". Others may think it is a member of "the old French hemp lobby". However, those who say LCDA makes agri-business in Europe are right. LCDA is the European industrial hemp "leader" and grows and manufactures its own line of products.
     (Editor’s Note: Many readers are familiar with the Federation National du Produceurs le Chanvre (FNPC) the national representative of French hemp producers. LCDA has no direct links with FNPC. LCDA and FNPC are two separate entities, with their own separate attitudes and differing activities.)

Company history and structure
         LCDA is a well established French company, specializing in production and processing of industrial hemp. It is a cooperative unit, working with many hemp farmers, located in the vineyard region of Champagne in eastern France. It was created in 1973, when a local paper manufacturer that had been buying local hemp decided to relocate its processing plant to another location. Thus, even before LCDA was created, hemp growing in Champagne had a clear industrial orientation. This is perfectly summed up by John Roulac’s words, "one foot in the soil, and one foot in industry".
     Since 1973, La Chanvriere de L’Aube has constantly evolved and our turnover now amounts to FF 15 million (around US$ 10 million). Our unique high-performance hemp processing line is non-polluting. We have at our disposal two decorticating lines and four fiber conditioners (built on 70,000 m 2 ) and a fleet of vehicles. Ten percent of our gross profit is dedicated to research and development.
     La Chanvriere de L’Aube works with 400 co-ops all around Bar Sur Aube. We grow 7,500 hectares (around 18,500 acres) in an ideal climate with a minimum of fertilisers and no pesticides. LCDA processes 50,000 metric tons of industrial hemp per year. LCDA was the only company in this region to work with hemp for the past 25 years, so our co-op farmers and 48 employees have developed a real savoir-faire. This prepares us for the new challenges we are all facing in the near future.
     Our goals, as industrial as they may be, are definitely oriented towards the 400 co-op farmers we represent. As a cooperative company, we must ensure them long-term and profitable incomes. In return, this attitude ensures a constant supply of hemp, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Activities and products
         The path we follow to achieve our aims is both innovative and industrially sound, and our involvement in research and development is strong. LCDA’s start in paper fiber preparation has lead to new hemp products such as Aubiose® animal bedding (1980’s), and the building materials Canobiote® and Canosmose® (1986). New developments and partnerships have been established over the years. This allows LCDA to utilize every by-product of hemp processing. Our will to proceed and improve, step by step, remains constant.
         Aubiose® animal bedding is derived from the hurds, the soft core of the stalk consisting mostly of hemicellulose. This natural byproduct of fiber extraction is graded, sized and thoroughly dust-free. Its superior quality and impressive absorbing power can greatly contribute to the general well-being of horses and other pets.
     Presently, our intentions consist in keeping it natural and economical, simplifying its packaging, storage and transportation, and spreading its use to new markets. This explains the success Aubiose® has encountered in Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands.
     Hemp building materials were patented in 1986, thanks to a collaboration with Mr. Rasetti, who was the first one to believe in the advantages of hemp houses. The hemp hurds are extracted, separated and sized. Hurds provide a healthy, eco-friendly and cost-effective advanced construction material for making low-volume high-efficiency acoustic and thermal insulation that is durable and easy to install.
         Canamose® is a light-weight concrete made with hemp hurds and natural lime, which may be used for all types of non load-bearing masonry, and is perfectly suited to walls sectioned with wooden supports.
         Canobiote® is hemp hurds coated with mineral salts, which is an effective process for the insulation of wood-framed, closed lofts and floors intended for regular use.
        The first hemp building conference held within LCDA, "2 jours pour construire en chanvre" showed how people are keen on having new and clearer information about hemp. The conference was held in Troyes on December 5-6, 1997 and was attended by 200 French professionals. Its focus was an assesment of the first 10 years of hemp building construction. The first day consisted of general discussions about architecture, health, using lime, insulating wool, building methods, fiber insulation, with many concerned people participating. On the second day, demonstrations and a hemp exposition were held at LCDA, in order to exchange experiences and impressions with others in the hemp industry.

Industrial fiber
         Fiber has always had a major economic role for LCDA. Long oriented to the paper industry, the agri-business unit has set up a "technical fiber" branch concerned with non-woven hemp fiber insulation, composites, textiles and geotextiles. This is being done with relevant partners such as La Francaise du Lin et du Chanvre, the French leader in natural textile fibers. To date, more than FF 20 million have been invested. This way LCDA will be in a position to meet every need of our industrial customers.
         LCDA is also co-investor with automotive sub-contractors in Agro Fibres Technologies developing geo-textiles and composites, especially for the automobile and insulation markets, adding another eco-friendly involvment.

Hemp seeds
         The French market for hemp seeds was traditionally fishing bait and animal feed. Early in the 90’s LCDA decided to have a better look at the market opportunities for hemp seed. LCDA now extracts cold-pressed hemp seed oil and proteins for the lipo-industry (cosmetics, dietetic products, and inks). We are participating in a European study to produce definitive and precise data on seed utilization, and a new industrial process is in view. Presently, LCDA produces seed yields on almost all their acreage of between 0.5 and 1.2 t/ha.
     Industrial hemp is attractive as a profitable crop, but it is not a miracle plant. Hemp is a hardy plant, but it requires active processing to suppply large markets. LCDA’s growing area and tonnage have doubled in the last 5 years. We hope this evolution will continue in a constant, fair and coherent manner.

Cyril Esnault and JB Le Texier
for the workers and members
of LCDA - La Chanvriere