The Conversation is an online news source powered by academia. Every author on the site has strong academic credentials and they seek to take the politics out of the big discussions (on the environment, economics, urban policy etc.) that affect our lives.
All of their articles have been licensed under Creative Commons so that they may be shared across the web.
On a regular basis, we're going to post a few interesting reads that pique our interest here.
The first of these deals with the not-widely-enough-known superpowers possessed by low-THC hemp and how it can help us generate energy that has a less destructive impact on the environment.
Not only would industrial hemp allow us to create fuels that are more environmentally friendly, they'd also allow us to decentralise energy production across the globe and potentially lessen the decade long conflicts that result from a desire to control profitable and limited energy resources.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Bioenergy is currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Cultivating energy crops on arable land can decrease dependency on depleting fossil resources and it can mitigate climate change.
But some biofuel crops have bad environmental effects: they use too much water, displace people and create more emissions than they save. This has led to a demand for high-yielding energy crops with low environmental impact. Industrial hemp is said to be just that.
Enthusiasts have been promoting the use of industrial hemp for producing bioenergy for a long time now. With its potentially high biomass yield and its suitability to fit into existing crop rotations, hemp could not only complement but exceed other available energy crops.
Hemp, Cannabis sativa, originates from western Asia and India and from there spread around the globe. For centuries, fibres were used to make ropes, sails, cloth and paper, while the seeds were used for protein-rich food and feed. Interest in hemp declined when other fibres such as sisal and jute replaced hemp in the 19th century.
Abuse of hemp as a drug led to the prohibition of its cultivation by the United Nations in 1961. When prohibition was revoked in the 1990s in the European Union, Canada and later in Australia, industrially used hemp emerged again.
This time, the car industry’s interest in light, natural fibre promoted its use. For such industrial use, modern varieties with insignificant content of psychoactive compounds are grown. Nonetheless, industrial hemp cultivation is still prohibited in some industrialised countries like Norway and the USA.
Energy use of industrial hemp is today very limited. There are few countries in which hemp has been commercialised as an energy crop. Sweden is one, and has a small commercial production of hemp briquettes. Hemp briquettes are more expensive than wood-based briquettes, but sell reasonably well on regional markets.
Large-scale energy uses of hemp have also been suggested.
Biogas production from hemp could compete with production from maize, especially in cold climate regions such as Northern Europe and Canada. Ethanol production is possible from the whole hemp plant, and biodiesel can be produced from the oil pressed from hemp seeds. Biodiesel production from hemp seed oil has been shown to overall have a much lower environmental impact than fossil diesel.
Indeed, the environmental benefits of hemp have been praised highly, since hemp cultivation requires very limited amounts of pesticide. Few insect pests are known to exist in hemp crops and fungal diseases are rare.
Since hemp plants shade the ground quickly after sowing, they can outgrow weeds, a trait interesting especially for organic farmers. Still, a weed-free seedbed is required. And without nitrogen fertilisation hemp won´t grow as vigorously as is often suggested.
So, as with any other crop, it takes good agricultural practice to grow hemp right.
Being an annual crop, hemp functions very well in crop rotations. Here it may function as a break crop, reducing the occurance of pests, particularly in cereal production. Farmers interested in cultivating energy crops are often hesitant about tying fields into the production of perennial energy crops such as willow. Due to the high self-tolerance of hemp, cultivation over two to three years in the same field does not lead to significant biomass yield losses.
Small-scale production of hemp briquettes has also proven economically feasible. However, using whole-crop hemp (or any other crop) for energy production is not the overall solution.
Before producing energy from the residues it is certainly more environmentally friendly to use fibres, oils or other compounds of hemp. Even energy in the fibre products can be used when the products become waste.
Recycling plant nutrients to the field, such as in biogas residue, can contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions from crop production.
Sustainable bioenergy production is not easy, and a diversity of crops will be needed. Industrial hemp is not the ultimate energy crop. Still, if cultivated on good soil with decent fertilisation, hemp can certainly be an environmentally sound crop for bioenergy production and for other industrial uses as well.
We recently sharpened the pencils to put together an Indo-inspired print for the good volk at Munich-based fashion label A Kind of Guise.
The Flores Shirt (pictured below) is inspired by modern Bali - an island with a deep respect for its religious, cultural and textile history, and one that's coming to terms with its popularity as a destination for holiday-makers, end-of-season football trips and lycra-clad laptop lifestylers.
The shirt features a few select Balinese hallmarks including traditional dancers, a cock fighting match, gently swaying palms and the ubiquitous Bintang tinnie.
For a closer look and to get your hands on one, get across to the A Kind of Guise site here.
For a bit more on the fine Bavarians behind the brand, head to the following places for a nice read:
Waveform Electrical Works is a small, talented team of electricians based in southern Sydney.
We hooked them up with a nice, simple logo that riffs off the overlapping sine waves that mark electrical frequencies.
We also built them a user-friendly website to help their clients find them and get a sense of how great they are.
The site was purpose-built to be easily updated by Waveform Electrical's in-house team.
Here's the first instalment of our MFDC Blueprints series. A series which will see us sharpen our pencils and pixels to draft up well-designed fixes to modern-day quandries.
The first issue we're tackling is how do we bring back humanity into air travel without losing its affordability.
With that we introduce Antipodean, a long-haul, low-cost carrier that would be headquartered out of Sydney.
It would cater to the gap in the market created by expensive and primarily business-focused flagship carriers and the cheap, but often cheerless low-cost carriers that have a poor reputation for customer service.
The Antipodean business model would largely mirror the current low-cost model but with a stronger emphasis on design, experience and customer service.
Elevating the quality of service yet retaining the value of the offer would be achieved by following these few key guides:
Our aim for Antipodean would be to create a model that would increase the competition for quality across the sector with a hope that that would put a stop to the largely spreadsheet-driven approach to how customers are treated in this segment of the market.
:Enspire Solutions is an Engineering and Project Management consulting firm that's recently opened for business in North Sydney.
The firm is helmed by a small and agile team of engineers that have a wealth of experience helping builders and developers create communities that people in which love to live.
We were engaged to develop a brand identity that reflects the professionalism and approachability of the business and its staff.
Head to the Enspire Solutions website to see more.
Elms store is a brand-spanking new fashion and homewares store that's recently swung open its doors on Crown Street in Sydney's Surry Hills.
It's well-curated selection of Australian and Kiwi designed clothing, books, gifts, homewares and artwork nicely packs out two finely-appointed floors on Surry Hills' most prominent shopping drag.
We here at Mat Faint Design Co. had the pleasure of helping the girls at Elms develop their brand identity and tone of voice.
Given the Australian-centric approach to design, we chose to go with a rich dessert ochre as the brand's central colour.
To reflect the premium nature of the store's offering, we opted for a clean, solid serif logotype with an accentuated 'l' as a nod to the towering trunks of verdant greenery that line the streets of Surry Hills.
We're continuing to work with Elms to progressively build on various elements of their brand as they grow.
Mat Faint Design Co. is a Sydney-based branding, design and illustration studio geared to helping small business and brands look their sharpest.