Help­ing hand for hemp

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So­phie Dwyer hopes to give WA’s fledg­ing hemp in­dus­try a boost by cre­at­ing an in-depth busi­ness plan ex­plor­ing mar­ket­ing and pro­cess­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ms Dwyer is one of four WA women short-listed for the AgriFu­ture’s Ru­ral Women’s Award $10,000 prize, set to be an­nounced next Wed­nes­day at Gov­ern­ment House.

Based in Perth, Ms Dwyer said her in­ter­est in hemp was sparked when she joined the board of Food, Fi­bre and Land In­ter­na­tional Group as a nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor last year.

Ms Dwyer said she hoped to use the $10,000 bur­sary to cre­ate a busi­ness plan ex­plor­ing the po­ten­tial for hemp seed grow­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing in WA.

“I re­ally want to know how we can in­crease ex­ist­ing con­sumers and broaden the en­tire con­sumers’ en­gage­ment with hemp seed,” she said.

“Hemp seed is a nu­tri­tious food con­tain­ing all es­sen­tial amino acids to main­tain health, it is rich in healthy oils in­clud­ing Omega 3 and 6.

“The small seed has a pleas­ant nutty taste com­ple­ment­ing a broad range of food styles and flavours.”

Ms Dwyer said she planned to in­ves­ti­gate cap­i­tal in­vest­ment, po­ten­tial for on­line and di­rect sales, and re­gional pro­cess­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Food, Fi­bre and Land In­ter­na­tional plans to har­vest its first 40ha hemp trial at Man­jimup next month.

Seed, the head and the stalk will be har­vested with the seed used to re­plant a pro­posed 900ha site at Man­jimup next year.

FFLI chair­man Tony Ad­cock said the ed­i­ble seed of the fast-grow­ing crop had big po­ten­tial in WA, with most seed cur­rently im­ported from over­seas.

“We be­lieve it is a prof­itable in­dus­try but we are try­ing to grow it on scale, as a broad­acre crop,” he said.

“You can use the head and seed for food, the stalk for the build­ing in­dus­try and the roots for aro­mather­apy.

“So­phie was in­ter­ested in the nu­tri­tional as­pects of hemp seed and hemp in gen­eral, so when we in­vited her onto the board she was very keen to re­search the nu­tri­tional as­pects.”

Ms Dwyer said pro­cess­ing and mar­ket­ing the seed for hu­man con­sump­tion was the fastest way for hemp to gain trac­tion in WA.

“It is valu­able and it doesn’t re­quire a lot of pro­cess­ing . . . you crack the shell and then the seed is in­side,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Mean­while, we can con­tinue to grow the in­dus­try for the pro­cess­ing of fi­bres . . . the seed pro­cess­ing is min­i­mal and we al­ready have a mar­ket in WA.”

She also be­lieved hemp could pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive and valu­able break crop for farm­ers.

Ms Dwyer also serves as a non-ex­ec­u­tive and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for sev­eral pri­vate en­ti­ties, and serves on the boards of the Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and Grey­hounds WA.

She com­pleted a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence (hor­ti­cul­ture) at Univer­sity WA and an MBA at Curtin and works as a fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant.

Pic­ture: So­phie Dwyer

AgriFu­tures Ru­ral Women's Award fi­nal­ist So­phie Dwyer in a hemp crop.

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