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“At Cânhamor we think about the planet we are going to leave for our children and their children”

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Elad and Khalid founded Cânhamor in Colos, southern Portugal

Two Israelis living in the south of Alentejo have teamed up with two Palestinians to found an innovative hemp block business for sustainable construction. Its aim is to encourage the local economy with as little ecological footprint as possible and, of course, lots of love. From this unlikely relationship of Israeli-Palestinian friendship, Hemp was born.

This interview was originally published in issue #5 of Cannadouro Magazine.

Elad Kaspin, 34, and Omer Ben Zvi, 36, both Israelis, bought land in southern Alentejo 8 years ago. Fascinated by the hemp plant, they dreamed of setting up a factory to explore one of its many applications. It was at the end of 2020 that the dream came true, when Khalid Mansour, 45, and Azmi Afifi, 50, both Palestinians, also came to Portugal and bought land. Together they invested the necessary capital to start the enterprise and, from the experience and initiative of the four, the adventure they called Cânhamor began. “The four partners are good friends and we are very happy to work together in synergy as Palestinians and Israelis”, they say. We went to visit Cânhamor and discover the history that brought these four entrepreneurs together in Portugal.

What is, in your opinion, “Building with nature instead of exploring it”?
The entire industrial production chain, from start to finish, exploits mother nature, carelessly extracting resources and producing endless waste. We have lost connection with where we came from and therefore we do not take into account the high price our planet pays when we try to make money as quickly as possible. At Canhamôr we think about the planet we are going to leave for our children and their children. In other words, we think about what we can do today so that nature is included in the process and benefits from it, instead of being treated as an infinite resource and a deposit of toxic waste and gases. That's why we chose to work as locally as possible and with the hemp plant, which has a negative carbon footprint, to create a truly waste-free product.

Cânhamor blocks do not contain any type of cement or unnatural hardening additives.

What materials and methods do you use to manufacture the blocks?
We use the inner part of the stem of the hemp plant. Normally, this part is treated as waste and is discarded. We take this wonderful “waste” and turn it into something usable, with incredible properties. We mix with two types of local Portuguese limestone (the well-known lime), and a special type of clay, to create a very strong, light, fire-resistant building material with a very high level of thermal and acoustic insulation. It also “breathes” very well, eliminating any moisture issues commonly found in existing structures.

Is the hemp you use produced in Portugal?
For now, we buy our hemp in France because the machine needed to transform the plant into the fine form we use in the blocks does not yet exist in Portugal (or Spain). We are working on the purchase and assembly of this machine in our factory, so that we can only work with Portuguese hemp, support local producers and expand the entire hemp industry in Portugal.

What were the biggest difficulties in implementing your project?
Unlike other companies that manufacture similar blocks, we do not add any type of cement or unnatural hardening additives. This means that the drying and curing process of the blocks naturally takes up to 60 days, which presents a huge logistical storage challenge, but we refuse to compromise on the quality and ecological aspects of our blocks. Another challenge is that this is a very new market in Portugal and people are still quite hesitant to change the conservative ways of materials and construction methods.

Projects are born of ideas and made by people. Who created Hemp?
We are four people living in Alentejo, who dreamed of creating a business with this truly remarkable plant. One brought the idea, one brought the funding and the third brought the initiative and action. Today, the people who make this business work are equally dedicated workers who produce high quality blocks every day.

What factors dictated the choice of Portugal and the parish of Colos, in the municipality of Odemira, for the installation of the factory?
First of all, it's the area where we live and we want to integrate this passion into our lives, not just as work. Secondly, it is a very large area, thousands of hectares of unused land and could be ideal for growing hemp, helping to regenerate the soil and providing business to many local farmers.

The drying and curing process of the blocks normally takes up to 60 days

Does Cânhamor intend to reach the industrial scale?
Yes, at the moment we are a medium-sized industrial factory with seven contract workers. Together with the local authorities, we are developing a process to build a large-scale factory (from hemp blocks) to achieve a much higher production capacity and hire many more people. We intend to build it as early as 2022. When it is ready and we have the processing machines needed to work with local hemp, we will truly be a Zero-Waste industry, here in Colos, Alentejo. 

What is the main destination of your hemp blocks? The local, national or export market?
We intend to sell our blocks mainly in the Iberian Peninsula, so that we can maintain a negative carbon footprint and focus on projects as close and local as possible.

 

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]

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