Grow­ers pro­mote hemp as new in­dus­try

Ed­u­cat­ing farm­ers on emerg­ing mar­ket

The Western Star - - RURALWEEKL­Y - CASSANDRA GLOVER [email protected]­ral­

LAUCHLAN Grout and Har­ris­son Lee broke into the in­dus­trial hemp in­dus­try when they re­alised there wasn’t a mar­ket for it in Aus­tralia.

They started their busi­ness Hemp Farms Aus­tralia in 2013, be­fore hemp was le­galised for hu­man con­sump­tion in Aus­tralia.

“We re­alised there wasn’t any­one grow­ing com­mer­cial scale hemp at the time. There wasn’t such thing as a com­mod­ity hemp grower’s in­dus­try or mar­ket,” Lauchlan said.

“Our goal was to re­verse the stigma in­volved with in­dus­trial hemp as it was ob­vi­ously too closely re­lated to cannabis.

“Every­one thought hemp was cannabis. We al­ways knew hu­man con­sump­tion would be le­galised, we just didn’t know when.”

The hu­man con­sump­tion of hemp in­cludes hemp bread, bev­er­ages, sup­ple­ments, vi­ta­mins and pro­teins. These are all made from the seed or grain of the plant which can also be used to make es­sen­tial oils and cos­met­ics.

The stem of the plant is used for fi­bre in many dif­fer­ent prod­ucts in­clud­ing paper, cloth­ing, hous­ing and even cars.

“There was a big op­por­tu­nity that we saw to not only shine on its own, but to re­place sub-par in­gre­di­ents and com­po­nents in cur­rent prod­ucts,” Mr Grout said.

“Paper and plas­tic is one of the big­gest mar­kets I feel hemp could re­place. They’re one of the big­gest waste is­sues and hemp fi­bre is a sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive.

“It takes 40 years to grow a pine tree. 0.2 ha of hemp you can get the same amount of paper as a hectare of pine trees, and it only takes 100 days to pro­duce.”

Mr Grout said the fi­bre mar­ket was the long term vision.

“We can’t cope with hemp fi­bre in Aus­tralia at the mo­ment be­cause we’ve been brought up with cot­ton and cot­ton gins,” he said.

“Cot­ton gins can’t take hemp fi­bre be­cause they can’t weave it.

“The big ques­tion is about who is go­ing to pay for all

Our goal was to re­verse the stigma in­volved with in­dus­trial hemp as it was ob­vi­ously too closely re­lated to cannabis. — Lauchlan Grout

these hemp gins to be built?”

Mr Grout said they grew com­mer­cial crops through­out Queens­land and New South Wales, in­clud­ing a num­ber of crops through­out the Mara­noa re­gion.

“We had to get an in­dus­trial hemp li­cence, source land, source the right peo­ple for the job, and then learn­ing, we were learn­ing ev­ery step of the way,” he said.

“It all comes down to the va­ri­ety, but you de­ter­mine what you’re plant­ing is and what the out­come of the crop if go­ing to be, whether is, for

fi­bre, grain or dual pur­pose.

“It’s a 90-110 day crop. You use con­ven­tional seeds, you ir­ri­gate and you har­vest with a con­ven­tional header.”

The leaf of the crop is the part that can­not be har­vested un­der the grow­ing li­cence as it con­tains the high­est amount of THC (the prin­ci­pal psy­choac­tive con­stituent of cannabis).

In­dus­trial hemp va­ri­eties have low THC lev­els.

“The leaf be­comes part of our or­ganic mat­ter cy­cle. Due to our grower’s li­cence we can’t do with it,” Mr Grout said.

“So we strip all the grain off with a header.

“Then we’re left with the fi­bre. We ei­ther windrow, and bale it or it be­comes part of our or­ganic mat­ter as well.”

Mr Grout said the only way to build the in­dus­try was to get more peo­ple grow­ing.

“We now of­fer Aussie grow­ers op­por­tu­ni­ties to farm with us. Our goal is to ed­u­cate farm­ers on this new com­mod­ity,” he said.

“We’ve got grow­ers in north­ern and cen­tral Queens­land and north­ern New South Wales that are tri­alling our va­ri­eties and show­ing

some suc­cess.

“We have cot­ton grow­ers who are switch­ing to hemp. We have chick­pea and mung bean grow­ers who are in­clud­ing hemp into their ro­ta­tions.

“There are a lot less in­puts per hectare to swap from cot­ton to hemp.

“You’d have one fifth the cost grow­ing hemp than you would in grow­ing cot­ton.

“There’s con­sid­er­ably less wa­ter needed to grow hemp than there is to grow cot­ton.

“And hemp is nat­u­rally a weed, so as soon as you get some soil cov­er­age from the plant, there is no way any other weeds are go­ing to com­pete with it, be­cause it is a weed it­self.”

Mr Grout said he had no farm­ing back­ground be­fore get­ting into the com­mer­cial hemp in­dus­try.

“I re­ally just de­cided to get into an emerg­ing mar­ket. I had a dream that I didn’t want to spend my life build­ing some­one else’s dream, when I had a dream of build­ing in­dus­trial hemp in­dus­try in Aus­tralia and pro­mot­ing the ben­e­fits,” he said.

“It was kind of just step­ping out into the dark and hop­ing some­one turned the light on.

“And if no one turned the light on we’d turn it on our­selves.”

Mr Grout has also started Aus­tralia’s first hemp pet food prod­uct called Ther­abis.

“It’s just for dogs at the mo­ment but our core for­mula tar­gets 75 per cent of all ail­ments with cats and dogs,” he said.

“We use Aus­tralian hemp and NZ green-lipped mus­sel. We com­bine hemp pro­tein from the grain.”


NEW DI­REC­TION: Har­ris­son Lee and Lauchlan Grout of Hemp Grow­ers Aus­tralia pro­duce hemp on var­i­ous farms in south­ern and cen­tral Queens­land.

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