Growing a rich future for industrial hemp

23.11.20

Industrial hemp is going from strength to strength in Australia and AgriFutures Australia is backing it as an emerging industry with huge potential.

AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Senior Manager, Tom McCue said the development of a dedicated RD&E plan for the industrial hemp industry is anticipated to highlight gaps and opportunities to help the industry reach $10 million gross value production per annum within five years.

“If you look at hemp as a whole, the range of opportunities has exploded in the past couple of years,” said Tom.

“Hemp is such a diverse crop. It has the potential to grow across Australia, it can grow very quickly, and it has a wide range of uses – food, fibre and industrial products. “

The Australian Industrial Hemp Association (AIHA) is preparing the plan and project manager Robert Bell has contacted more than 500 organisations here and around the world in an effort to gather diverse views and information for the plan.

“A few years ago, I encountered some incredible people involved in the hemp industry with great ideas for this amazing plant,” said Robert.

“We are gathering a lot of people’s thoughts and making sure they are all included so that at the end of the day we have a fair assessment of what people want to see included as the industry develops.”

Robert said the RD&E plan is initially looking at nine developmental areas for the industry. Some of the activity in these early stages of industry development is focused on using the seed for human food, be it as hemp seed, hemp flour or hemp oil.

“That’s the first step in building the industry and that’s already happening,” said Robert.

“Hemp is as good as carbon fibre but has multidirectional strength. It can be used in anything – buildings, cars, kayaks, surfboards, guitars and amplifiers. BMW already has 23kg of hemp in some of their cars, and it’s not just in the trimmings, it’s in the panels.

“Then from the stalks you can use the hurd in building – hempcrete. That’s growing annually.

“Hemp is a fantastic product and you can use the whole plant, even the roots. It’s so sustainable and once you know how to grow it, it’s relatively easy. The root system is very good for the soil.

“From planting seed to harvest is approximately 90 days. If we plant it correctly in Australia and use the right varieties, we can supply the world 365 days a year,” said Robert.

One of the first tasks in developing the RD&E plan is creating a live database about different hemp projects and information.

“The Canadians have already done this and we’re learning from them,” said Robert. “They’ve been very generous.

“We aim to develop a comprehensive reference and information tool for the industry.”

Given the sharp rise in the popularity and demand for hemp as a crop, the development of these tools is timely.

“Now we are getting so much demand to invest in projects, we want to document the range of RD&E issues and importantly what are the biggest priorities for growth as identified by industry,” said Tom.

“The RD&E plan is about getting the whole spectrum of gaps and opportunities and putting it in a plan that can be used by others. It’s a document representative of all the different industry needs.”

Tom said the RD&E plan will formalise the RD&E needs of the industry.

“If you look at any major agricultural industry, they have an RD&E plan. Once we have the plan, we will be able to better support the emerging industrial hemp industry in its growth. This will include funding the right research projects that will drive the biggest benefits across the industry .”

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa grown for its seed and fibre. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in industrial hemp are below 1%. Production and supply of hemp as a food source in Australia was legalised in November 2017.

If you would like to contribute to the development of the industrial hemp RD&E plan, contact Robert Bell, Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance, robert_bell@iprimus.com.au or 0433 796 450.

For more information about the AgriFutures Emerging Industries program, visit: www.agrifutures.com.au/rural-industries/emerging-industries/

If you would like to learn more about the development of a national RD&E plan for industrial hemp, visit:

www.agrifutures.com.au/related-projects/development-of-a-national-rdande-plan-for-the-australian-industrial-hemp-industry/