Hempalta turning agricultural waste into valuable products, and comfort for zoo animals

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The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s giraffes are enjoying new naturally antibacterial bedding that will be easier on their sensitive skin. 

The premium hemp bedding is a product of Calgary-based Hempalta, an agricultural technology company focused on innovative hemp processing and product creation.

Three times as absorbent as wood shavings, 99 per cent dust free and a natural deodorizer, the hypoallergenic, lightweight bedding has been donated as a 30-month sponsorship to the zoo.

“Hempalta’s commitment to providing the zoo with local hemp-based products will allow us to enhance our animal habitats in line with our sustainability goals,” says Jamie Dorgan, director of animal care, health and welfare.

“We are trialling the hemp bedding as the primary substitute in the giraffe indoor habitat and are excited to explore the possibility of use in other habitats across the zoo.”

Hempalta Premium Bedding is suitable for other animals, reptiles and birds, and is already the best seller of the company’s range of products made by converting hemp feedstock into clean, high-quality, high-volume hemp product streams.

Darren Bondar, president and CEO of Hempalta, is an entrepreneur with a vision to connect farmers with high-value markets.

Born in Saskatoon, he grew up in Calgary and earned his MBA at the University of Alberta.

Always working for himself, Bondar created a company called Watch It! retailing watches and sunglasses that he sold after opening 30 stores across the country.

His next venture was as an early entrant into the retailing of recreational cannabis. Within three years, the Calgary franchise operation owned 116 stores nationwide before it was sold to Sundial Growers.

Restive for another challenge, Bondar saw a huge potential in the business created by Canadian Greenfield Technologies that, over the past seven years, designed and manufactured HempTrain, an advanced processing technology capable of separating baled hemp straw.

He says it met all of his requirements for a successful business, so Bondar and a group of shareholders purchased the prototype plant earlier this year. It is now successfully processing and delivering a variety of consumer products, and supplying processed hemp for industrial applications.

Hemp is grown throughout southern Alberta and has many uses, primarily in the sale of seeds for foods, personal care, technical fluids and biofuel, while the roots improve soil health.

But the woody interiors of the hemp stalks had no value for farmers, and they were often left to rot.

Hempalta has provided another income stream to farmers who deliver 1,000-pound bales of what had been agricultural waste to the Calgary plant.

The stalks are fed into the HempTrain that cleans, cuts and sorts them into dust-free hurd, used in the animal bedding, micro hurd, bast fibre, and green microfibre.

Products currently brought to market include Hemp-Fresco, a natural way to keep food fresh. Possessing unique antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, it is sold in packages of three pads to be used as liners in refrigerator crispers and fruit bowls to prevent undesirable bacteria from spoiling food and keeping it smelling, tasting and looking fresh longer.

Hempy Cat Litter, made from clean core granules, has been welcomed by pet owners for its ultra-absorbency — five times that of clay — that prevents moisture from reaching the bottom of the tray, making cleanup simple and hassle-free.

Another new product made from 100 per cent hemp is Hemp-Pak, an organic soil amendment that increases aeration and improves water retention around plants. Newest is Hempzorb, a natural spill absorbent great for cleanup of oil, paint, automotive fluids and other liquids.

Bondar and his staff of 11 at the Calgary plant are busy researching other hemp fibre uses. Another automated packaging machine is on order and a second HempTrain unit will soon be needed as new markets — Hempalta already has customers in the U.S. — have created another Calgary company shipping good products far afield.

Region: Alberta

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