FARMERS across Australia are busy harvesting the nation’s first legal hemp seed crop at present.
Geelong based company Australian Primary Hemp is collaborating with ten growers across the nation to produce hemp seed, which was legalised last November.
Hemp is a strain of cannabis, however it has low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind altering component in marijuana.
Australian Primary Hemp is involved with the production of 700 hectares of hemp, which is grown over the summer, this year.
Hemp has been dubbed the next superfood, with high levels of protein and the oil highly rated on the culinary scene.
Agronomically it can be produced either dryland, as is the case in southern Victoria, where there are a number of growers, or under irrigation, as is the case in NSW this season.
Yields under optimal irrigated conditions can be as high as two tonnes to the hectare.
The initial crop has impressed farmers.
Simon Allen, a farmer in Victoria’s Western District said the crop had fitted in well with his rotation.
“Hemp has been a great crop to grow, its short cropping cycle has made it easy to integrate into my current cropping program,” he said.
The crop is useful as a soil ameliorant, with its long tap root capable of breaking up subsoil hard pans.
James Hood, Australian Primary Hemp Director, said there had been a groundswell of interest from potential growers since the product was legalised, saying Australia’s climate suited the crop perfectly.
He said the market for hemp was also growing exponentially, both domestically and for export.
In the past year, Mr Hood said Australian Primary Hemp has tripled its cropping program to keep up with the demand for hemp food products.
“Since the legislation change, we have seen people's interest in Australian grown hemp soar and the demand for Australian products increase significantly, not only in the domestic market but internationally as well,” he said.
The company is looking to partner with more growers in 2018/2019 to further increase its hemp tonnages.
Mr Hood said the focus would be on Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and SA but added this did not mean growers in other areas could not be involved.
In terms of products, Australian Primary Hemp will make hulled hemp seeds, a hemp protein fibre blend, a hemp protein powder with more than 50 per cent protein and its traditional hemp oil. These products will be made using the company’s Geelong based, dehulling and production facility.