New Zealand’s First Hemp Dual Crop Harvester
HempFarm has been growing dual variety hemp crops and developing harvesting methods over the last ten years. We have hand harvested, used various grain harvesters and even revisited some of the very early methods, such as the reaper binder of the 1920s. All methods have brought challenges, lessons and invaluable knowledge of the dual crop variety. We value and treasure those early years as they have been instrumental in leading us to where we are today.
Harvesting the dual crop variety of hemp is arguably the most difficult, due not only to the sheer height of the plants (over 4 metres), but also it is the longest strongest natural fibre on the planet and it will bind around the inner workings of machinery and can bend steel, we have seen this happen many times.
Our 2019 harvest of 500 hectares across five regions in both the North and South Island of NZ, was a great success. Alongside using various harvesting methods, such as grain harvesters, we have also utilized the knowledge gathered over the last ten years working in tall crops, and along with a New Zealand engineer we designed a clip-on head which attaches to a Claas harvester. This head reaches high enough to collect the precious seed, then the orbis cuts the stalks down low at the same pass. After trialling this method with some success, we are continuing the development of it.
We are also focussing on growing short crops for seed with a regular grain harvester and the tall varieties we cut for fibre We can now harvest not only the precious hemp seed but also the extremely valuable game changing stalk, which provides the versatile fibre.
We harvested 480 hectares of seed, while the birds beat us to about twenty hectares, bearing in mind it is their favourite seed. From those crops we were happy to secure around 400 tonne of seed, which will be processed at our dedicated hemp food facility in Tauriko. We will be producing de-hulled seed, hemp seed oil, protein powders and the deliciously tasting hemp milk.
Alongside our experienced farmers in Hemp Farm’s growers group, we harvested approximately 2000 large bales of hemp straw. This will be processed through our new advanced fibre line, due to be installed at NZYarn in Christchurch December 2020. This fibre line will separate the bast fibre (bark) from the woody core (hurd) of the stalk and it is at this point that the two products will become a highly valuable commodity to industries ranging from non-woven materials, hemp yarn and hemp merino blends, eco plastic, construction, paper, and many other primary products that will be hitting the vibrant plant based market over the next year or two.
So, with our successful 2019 harvest behind us, we are now setting in motion our 2020 planting. Approximately 1000 hectares around five regions will be going into our precious soils. We will be increasing our crop growing each season, along with developing infrastructure throughout the country. We will continue to supply innovative companies both in NZ and globally who are dedicated to making the environment a safer place. We are dedicated to a better world for the future of the environment and all who depend on it.
Article written by Anne Jordan (Co-Founder)