The industrial hemp super-crop has a rich history dating ten thousand years back when it was discovered in, and first used across Central Asia. Ever since, it has played a pivotal role in innumerable key advancements for mankind-- ranging from indigenous applications by the ancient Chinese, Indian and Egyptian civilisations, to modern day pure carbon nanosheets in supercapacitors. However, “just because it was used to make paper or clothes back then, it doesn’t mean it should be used even today, right?” we were asked once. She was right; in areas where alternatives are cheaper, easily available, or technically superior, hemp can be replaced. One point for human progress, probably a negative for the Earth.

In the madness of industrialisation, several critics have pointed out, man developed techniques for ‘large scale unsustainable natural resources exploitation’. According to Eric McLamb, Founder & CEO of EGN, today’s changing weather patterns, global warming, environmental degradation, food production challenges and the state of the human condition can all be attributed directly to the coming of age of man’s ingenuity: The Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Age heralded prosperity and monumental improvements in the human condition, but just as quickly ravaged the planet. From then to now, we’ve lost a multitude of natural resources to our idea of “human progress”.

Henry David Thoreau pinpoints the irony of such an existence aptly: “What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

The need of the hour is to heal the planet, and to also devise an imaginative strategy to make us and our world truly thrive. Our imagination, takes us to that world of the Chinese, Indian and Egyptian civilisations where the strongest fibre held together nature and human progress—Hemp.

Logan Yonavjak, Thought Leadership Specialist at Morgan Stanley's Institute for Sustainable Investing, explains this part best-- “not only can hemp be used for an astonishing number of products, its net environmental benefit is impressive. Among the more salient features, hemp grows in a variety of climates and soil types, is naturally resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced allowing it to outcompete most weeds. A natural substitute for cotton and wood fiber, hemp can also be pulped using fewer chemicals than wood because of its low lignin content. Its natural brightness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach. Hemp is not a panacea for our social, economic, and environmental woes—no single crop can do that. However, as we transition to a future that embraces more sustainable agriculture practices industrial hemp can help lead the way. With focused and sustained research and development, hemp could spur dramatic positive ecological and economic benefits. For instance, renewable, fast-growing hemp is a substitute for many unsustainable products like non-organic cotton (which currently uses more than 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticides) and many plastic products.”

When founding BOHECO, we had firmly envisioned that while Silicon Valley and the best innovators in the world continue to ‘make a dent in the universe’, farmers in developing economies will grow and provide the critical sustainable material of the future. As we travelled further into the Indian countryside, trying to trace the much-fabled history and origins of the cannabis plant, we found its uses in the humblest places – women who used the seed’s oil to moisturise their skin in the dry climate of the mountain, or crushed seeds in a delectable chutney for dinner. These places are probably the origins for discoveries for sustainable materials like hemp-based building material and hemp-based battery chargers.

When we saw this, we asked ourselves, should we continue to build our nation the way OECD countries and economies were built, or are we going to be more cognizant of our impact on the planet? Industrialisation & growth is inevitable across several parts of the world-- Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, South America & the Caribbean. But we want to build a future where there is room to explore sustainable solutions and implement them, and thereby celebrate their origins, which we often leave behind while climbing the development ladder.