1. What is the biggest mistake growers make when they are drying hemp?
One of the most common and detrimental mistakes growers make is underestimating the time and resources it takes to properly dry their crop. All too often, I see growers putting vast amounts of resources into cultivation and then trying to skate by when it comes to drying. Having a solid infrastructure dedicated to drying your crop can save you a tremendous amount of headache and money come harvest time, especially if external forces such as weather, bureaucracy or logistics throw a wrench into your plans. I like to say, “Grow for show, dry for dough.”
2. What are the ideal conditions for drying smokable hemp?
Ideal conditions for drying smokable hemp are around 60°F and 60% humidity. “Low and slow” is typically the goal so you are essentially both drying and curing the product over the course of 10 to 14 days. I’d also shoot for air movement while trying to avoid air blowing directly onto the product, and little to no UV light exposure. Drying too fast or too slow can lead to lower product quality or even a complete loss if conditions allow for molds such as Botrytis to spread. Knowing when your product has reached the optimal moisture content can often be more artform than science.
Photos courtesy of Shivvers
Drying too fast or too slow can lead to lower product quality or even a complete loss.
3. How do drying methods differ for different end uses of hemp?
While drying for smokable hemp is about creating a product with a pleasant aroma and flavor, hemp for extraction throws those requirements out the window. Drying hemp for extraction often revolves around maximizing throughput and minimizing costs while striving for quality preservation. Unfortunately, these factors often oppose one another. Each farmer has to weigh these options and find a solution that works best for their operation.
4. What are the advantages of using drying equipment versus hanging hemp to dry in a barn?
Drying equipment has numerous benefits over hang-drying, including speed and lower space requirements. But perhaps the largest benefit is enabling the farmer to machine harvest. Hang drying typically works best with hemp that has been hand-harvested, but harvesting and drying manually can be costly and time consuming. Additionally, many farmers grow at a scale that makes hang drying their entire crop logistically infeasible because of space and labor requirements, so machine harvesting and utilizing drying equipment quickly becomes the most attractive option.
5. What are some key considerations a grower should make when choosing drying equipment?
Finding a balance of throughput, operational cost and quality preservation is important, but a grower should also seek drying equipment that is reliable, versatile and scalable. I call the three main styles of dryers conveyor, rotary and batch, and they all work under the same principle: moving heated air across or through the material. Lower labor requirements, accurate and computerized air temperature control, and high airflow with low heat were my main considerations when I ran a contract drying facility in Oregon. Each style has its own merits, but even before working at Shivvers, I found that the batch-style dryers like those offered by the company were the right fit for me.