WA HEMP GROWERS’ CO-OP SET TO IGNITE INDUSTRY
The WA Hemp Growers Co-op (HempGro) has secured 9-tonne of certified French seed varieties, expected to arrive into the Fremantle shipping port mid-September. With over 130 grower licences in Western Australia the Co-op is confident this shipment will have a substantial impact on the growing Hemp Industry.
Since 2018 HempGro has been instrumental in growing the industry in WA supporting WA Licenced Hemp Farmers and sourcing reliable seed for sowing. This shipment is the third contract with the French Hemp Co-operative, Hemp-it and enables the Co-op to continue their role in supporting Australian farmers to have access to certified, reliable and stable hemp varieties suitable for the seed, oil and fibre industries.
Since inception the Co-op has been trialling seed varieties to determine which suits best the diverse WA growing regions. HempGro has been working very closely with the regulators, DPIRD, by supplying seed varieties sourced from Europe, Canada and China to support the research stations in Manjimup, Kununurra as well as undertaking their own trials in Moora. The WA Hemp Growers Co-op farming system seeks to identify dry land cropping practices to promote Hemp as a break crop and support summer growing opportunities for farmers.
The 2021 season looks promising with an unusual wet winter, with record rainfall over most of the southern part of the State from the Wheatbelt down to the Great Southern and extending to Esperance. This offers a promising growing season with late September to early November as the peek timing for seed sowing. The French Hemp seed varieties are light sensitive, with germination conditions pivoting the success of the crop over a 12 week period. Farmers who choose to add hemp in their farming systems have the potential to sow two crops between September and January.
Outgoing Chair Nicole Botica said that this season was looking promising and expects with this amount of subsoil moisture, from the wet winter this season, will prove excellent Agronomy results for our farmers.
“The time is right to grow hemp, but we need to support the industry with access to processing machinery so the farmers can activate new markets. The community is crying out for this and the Co-op is regularly approached by entrepreneurs wanting farm offtake, but the processing is now the issue.”
The industry is seeking access to processing machinery and the WA Hemp Growers Co-op has developed two business cases to support processing for WA Hemp Farmers. One business opportunity is collaborating with Castle Drilling Company in the Great Southern to deliver a mobile processing machine that can undertake on farm processing and run 365 days a year. The other opportunity is a purpose built multi-processing hub to support high end production that could extent from food, fibre and oil to other off-take commodities such as plastics, batteries and even graphite products.
In Parliament on the 19 August, 2021, Hon Dr Brian Walker addressed the Minister for Agriculture and Food and challenged the support of the McGowan government for the industry development. He specifically addressed the need for a specialist unit which can process hurd into various products, including animal bedding, weed matting and housing.
“If an application is submitted for the next round of Regional Economic Development Grants to fund the development and deployment of such a resource, will the Minister give it her due consideration and support?” He said.
Minister Mac Tiernan has demonstrated her support for the industry and in 2018 legislated to increase permissible THC— tetrahydrocannabinol—content, for hemp farmers making the industry much more viable. Further support given to HempGro was funding towards Seed for the Best Region research grant and the Collie Hemp Hub Business Case.
Hemp is the strongest natural fibre suitable for the building and textile industries; the seed is the richest source of essential fatty acids and high in protein making it an excellent food source as well as a superior ingredient in cosmetics. The crop can grow in dry land conditions and can sustain many industries. The research is promising to use hemp as a foraging option for grazing stock and the consumer call for bioplastics is in demand.
The Co-op is holding its AGM in Denmark WA on the 9 October, new membership is welcome and positions will be vacant. The Board is building leadership in this sector and through the Cooperative Principles and active membership will retain its reputation as being relevant to its members.
For more information on the WA Hemp Growers Co-op or how to secure, stable seed varieties for the 2021/2022 growing season contact the HempGro via their website www.hempgro.com.au
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Figure 1: HempGro Executive Officer Gail Stubber & Chairperson Nicole Botica, talking hemp with ABC reporter at a trail crop in February 2020 demonstrating a successful dryland farming model in the Great Southern.