Regulations may be slow to evolve, but the growing and selling of hemp may be poised to become an agricultural revolution – and one local business has been working hard at the ground level of this burgeoning industry.
Hemp might still catch some of the baggage of it’s not-yet-legal psychotropic cousin in the public mind. But it’s really a crop that could do a lot to promote a sustainable environment, economy and individual health. Realising the potential for Aoteraroa, Dave and Anne Jordan co-founded Hemp Farm in 2011. They aim to grow, process and sell hemp-based products, while educating both the government and public on the benefits of the misunderstood plant.
Dave and Anne talk with us about their history, current successes and what the future looks like for hemp in New Zealand.
New Zealand Vegan: What motivated you to start Hemp Farm?
Anne Jordan: We were motivated by the desire to clean up the environment and for health and well-being. Hemp is not only a superfood, it is also a plant that sequesters carbon out of the atmosphere and locks it up in the products that you make from it. It is an incredibly useful and beneficial plant, with so many uses. All the products that we use today can be made from sustainable hemp.
The law is slowly evolving around hemp – what are the regulations around growing and selling today?
Dave Jordan: We can sell hemp products for human consumption, however the ministry has taken away the ability to sell into the animal sector, placing a strain on the industry. NZ is about to see an oversupply of hemp seed into the food chain, as many growers show an interest in getting involved with hemp foods which is new to market ahead of consumer uptake.
How much hemp are you currently growing?
The 2019 harvest was around 400 ton while the 2020 harvest was close to 1000 ton of seed. We expect that the 2021 harvest will be as little as 300 ton due to Covid-19 and supply and demand levelling.
Can you tell me about the environmental aspects of growing hemp?
Growing hemp assists with soil remediation, in addition to sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere and locking it up in the products that are made from it. Hemp is used for food, fibre, fuel, and medicine.
Hemp also has an excellent nutritional makeup, what are some of the highlights in that area?
Hemp seed is a wholefood containing all the essential nutrients needed to maintain great health. It is a complete protein, plus it contains all essential omega fatty acids in a 3:1 ratio, GLA, known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, vitamins, minerals including iron and it is also particularly high in magnesium. Hemp seed oil is full of omegas 3, 6 and 9, including GLA and vitamin E. It also contains plant sterols known in studies to help reduce cholesterol. Hemp foods taste delicious too!
Is special machinery needed for harvesting hemp?
We have designed and built our own harvesting methods whilst also working with global partners on harvesting. It has been a long and expensive part of developing infrastructure for tall crops.
You’re establishing your own hemp processing plants around the country, where are you at with that?
Our hemp fibre processing line, the first of its kind in New Zealand, will be fully commissioned by the end of September 2020. The raw fibre will be further processed to a cottonised product and used in carpets and blended with wool. We will also produce insulation, eco-matting, and several consumer products, which are in development. We believe that the introduction of these hemp blends will bolster the wool industry.
Our Tauranga dedicated hemp food and distribution facility is up and running with more innovation and products to come.
You sell a line of your own hemp products, what’s new and exciting there?
We do have a great range of hemp products, including hemp hearts, cold pressed oil and protein powder. Brand new is our hemp and hemp/oat milk. This plant-based milk won’t split in a frothy coffee and is perfect on cereals and smoothies. We will be introducing our one-litre bottles to market very soon. Currently it is available in five-litre boxes.
You also supply hemp for companies to create their own products; what are some of your favourite products made with your hemp?
We do supply some prominent New Zealand brands. We particularly love Em’s Power Cookies, Tom & Luke’s Snackballs and Bean Supreme’s Hemp Burger, so good!
I've heard hemp can be used a number of ways in the construction industry, is that something HempFarm is looking to get into?
Yes, absolutely hemp is a fantastic product in every area of building and construction. This is one of the biggest areas of hemp fibre use and over the next five years consumers will see much innovation and product development coming to market.
Is the upcoming cannabis referendum likely to have any effects on business?
It may. We hope it will have an effect in the sense of educating consumers about the differences between industrial hemp and recreational cannabis.
How would you like to see Aotearoa’s hemp industry develop in the near future?
We see the hemp industry as a dominant industry supplying many industry sectors like agriculture, construction, plastics, textiles, for the purposes of compliance challenges, and to remove the reliance on the petrochemical industry. The scale of the hemp industry will see it become one of New Zealand’s biggest industries.