The proposed trial of Industrial Hemp at the SuniTAFE SMART Farm took an important step forward this week with the allocation of land where hemp will grow set out.
A collaboration between Australian Primary Hemp (APH) and SuniTAFE will see the land at the SuniTAFE SMART Farm set aside for hemp plantings, to assess its suitability to collect data on low-THC hemp varieties.
These varieties would be used for the purposes of food, fibre and building material products over the next two to three years.
The project has received the strong advocacy of the Member for Mildura, Ali Cupper MLA, who sits on the Victorian Government Parliamentary Industrial Hemp Taskforce alongside Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes MP and Fiona Patten MP.
Ms Cupper said the partnership was exciting for Sunraysia with the potential to grow a new industry in the region. “The Industrial Hemp Taskforce was established to investigate the potential for production of hemp production in Victoria, and I’m rapt the first big partnership to be established out of the taskforce is in Mildura,” she said.
Acknowledging the potential for hemp production and cultivation relative to Mildura’s climate, the trial’s ultimate success would see the establishment of a locally-based industry, ensuring employment and economic gains are realised for the greater Sunraysia region.
Minister Symes anticipates the trial could also have wide reaching benefits across Victoria.
“This is exciting, not only for SuniTAFE and Mildura, but for all of Victoria. Hemp is a promising emerging commodity and it’s fantastic that Mildura gets to be at the forefront of our investment in this growing industry,” she said.
Industrial hemp should not be confused with marijuana, with the proposed hemp crop a variety naturally low in THC (under 0.35%), so there are no psychoactive effects. All parties were present for the memorandum of understanding signing this week that will see SuniTAFE and APH team up to undertake trials over a range of production cycles.
Australian Primary Hemp was founded in 2016 and has gone onto become one of Australia’s largest producers of Australian grown hemp. APH supports a grower network spanning Australia but has chosen to conduct trails in Mildura for its unique growing conditions.
The industrial hemp varieties APH grows have yield and sustainability benefits that may suit the Mallee climate.
“We’ve seen that over the past four years the hemp plant is very resilient to most pests and disease, it’s an efficient user of water and has regenerative soil properties,” says APH co-founder James Hood.
“Our research to date also indicates that longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures may provide a window for good seed yields, as well as biomass and cannabinoid production”.
There are thousands of documented uses for hemp, including use in building and textile materials.
Hemp is also said to have “superfood” qualities such as containing all essential amino acids and being rich in omegas, and is increasingly popular in overseas markets.
The ban on the cultivation of hemp was lifted in April 2017, with the crop now classified fit for human consumption and riding a wave of increased consumer demand.
An Agrifutures commissioned report of new and emerging industries in 2017 identified 53 potential emerging industries categorised as Good, Better or Best. Hemp seed is one of nine commodities to have landed in the Best category.
“As hemp pioneers, APH is thrilled to be working with SuniTAFE to promote and grow hemp and see a great future in our partnership for the Sunraysia area. We are grateful for the support we are all getting from the Victorian Industrial Hemp Taskforce too,” said APH CEO Neale Joseph.
“There’s obviously a deal of rigour around the processes involved in issuing a licence to produce Industrial Hemp and we’re also very aware of our community’s interest in this trial,” said SuniTAFE CEO Geoff Dea.
“The trial places SuniTAFE and our students at the forefront of an emerging commodity and will bring the scientific elements of crop harvesting, production and analysis into the classroom for the benefit of our future farmers and the horticulture sector more broadly.”
“These are exciting times indeed, and the liaison between Australian Primary Hemp, the Parliamentary Taskforce and our key stakeholders just reinforces the strategic importance of pioneering this relatively new and widely unknown commodity.”