A Nebraska company that designs custom harvesting equipment for crops such as wild rice and hops has added hemp harvesting equipment to their offerings.
Bish Equipment makes the FiberCut, a pull-behind sickle mower that can cut hemp stalks at multiple heights.
It’s the only custom hemp stalk harvesting equipment made in the U.S., according to Chief Operating Officer Andrew Bish.
“And it’s made right in Giltner, Nebraska,” he said.
The machine cuts towering hemp stalks in it 24- to 39-inch lengths with a pass of adjustable cutting arms.
“It cuts the stalk to a manageable length,” Bish said
Most areas suited for growing hemp are also good hay and grass production areas, and once the hemp stalks are cut down, growers can often use the same raking and raking equipment they use for hay.
The fiber cut is modeled after sickle equipment that was popular before the 1950s. The challenge, Bish said, was handling the horsepower and the size farmers need today. It cuts in 12 or 15-foot swaths.
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“We asked, how do we take this and make it robust enough for an American farmer in this decade?” Bish said. “We don’t know too many farmers that are excited about cutting 8-foot swaths anything.”
The FiberCut is designed to handle different hemp varieties that grow to different heights. Growers can harvest with one to four cutting arms that can be added or removed and moved to different heights.
It’s also designed to get the job done as quickly as possible, running at 10 mph or slightly more.
“You can compete against traditional combine acres per hour,” Bish said.
The company put out the first production model of the FiberCut last season, but Bish Equipment has been making hemp harvesting machines for both fiber and grain since before 2016 when it was used in Colorado.
Bish Equipment planned to have the FiberCut machine on site at the Industrial Hemp Conference and open house at Complete Hemp Processing in Winfred, South Dakota Aug. 4. The machine is available for area farmer to lease.
Bish will also be discussing another aspect of hemp he’s involved with as president of the Hemp Feed Coalition: legalizing hemp for animal feed.
“Once we have an animal market for the grain, the economics of hemp changes entirely,” he said. “It will become a commodity overnight.”
The coalition is working with the Food and Drug Administration to be able to use hemp in chicken feed, he said, and they’ll move on to adding cattle and horses next year.
Hemp seed and meal is high in protein and high in beneficial oils such as omega 3 and 6. Bish said it plays a role in reducing animal stress and joint inflammation.