Fiber hemp industrial chain for the production of functional food and animal feed additives

The “biobased economy” (BBE) is considered one of the main elements for the sustainable growth of the European economy, and hemp because of its peculiarities is a key crop to support these new strategies [1]. Hemp is a low input – renewal crop that can replace corn or sunflower in the spring sowings of our territory and it is employed in crop rotation in organic farming [2].

The CATERPILLAR Project fits into the context of the Italian hemp value chain with the aim of diversifying production and increasing profitability by expressing all the potential of this crop, by generating new by-products with high added value and offering new market opportunities to local farms.

The project aims to improve the food uses of the crop and to reduce wastes deriving from its processing. The project is based on the organic cultivation of monoecious hemp and the separate collection of lime for the production of seeds and drums intended for the production of textile and technical fiber. The seeds will be used for the production of oil and flour and employed for the development of functional and gluten-free products, whereas the drums will be used for the production of fiber and shives. The fiber will be extracted from the drums in a prototype bioreactor for microbiological maceration; while feeding, larvae of the diptera Hermetia illucens will clean the macerated fiber from the bacterial biofilm and the pectic component: the larval biomass thus obtained will be used for the production of additives for the feed industry.

The objectives of the Project are the following:

  1. Production of oil and flour from organic hemp seed and characterization of their nutritional and nutraceutical profile;
  2. Development of bakery products with hemp flour and oil and their sensory and nutritional characterization;
  3. Development of an eco-friendly system for cleaning macerated fiber by using Hermetia Illucens larvae;
  4. Characterization of the nutritional profile of the larval biomass grown on macerated hemp fiber to improve its use for food or feed purposes;
  5. Fractionation of larval biomass and production of protein additives for animal feed;
  6. Creation of a short and sustainable organic supply chain model to be implemented in farms located in internal and disadvantages areas.

The Operational Group is composed by Open Fields, CREA – Council for Agricultural Research and Economics, University of Parma and SITEIA, Azienda Agraria Sperimentale Stuard, Agriform S.c.r.l., Naturfibre and the Farms Pedrazzi and Cà D’Alfieri.

[1] Carus, 2017: EHIA 2017-03: The European Hemp Industry: Cultivation, processing and applications for fibres, shivs, seeds and flowers;

[2] Grassi, 2016: Audizione CREA Senato 9a Commissione Agricoltura 23.02.2016 Leggi sulla canapa industriale d.d.l. 2144 – Brevi note su coltura.

The trailer of the Caterpillar Project is now available on our YouTube channel!

ROLE: Coordinator

TIMING: 2020 – 2022

CALL: PSR 2014-2020 – Misura 16.1.01 – Focus Area 2A

Website European Commission – FEASR:

BUDGET: € 213.609,17


Project supported by: