Hemp Victoria is a not-for-profit organization committed to representing Australian growers, processors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and end users of hemp to promote a sustainable and economically viable industry in Victoria and Australia wide.
Hemp has been around for thousands of years. It has only been in the mid-1900s that it became demonised because of its botanical association with marijuana. Hemp is non-drug cannabis (low THC ). Hemp Victoria is committed to education, industry development, and the accelerated expansion of the market for industrial hemp.
According to the United Nations, by the year 2050, global population will grow to nine billion people – all needing access to healthy food, clean water, sanitation, shelter, mobility, education and healthcare. The next few decades are pivotal for mankind as climate change impacts are felt and food production and water usage are forced to become innovative.
For our part, Hemp Victoria will lead by example with access to resources of innovation, sustainability and best practice that will reduce stakeholders carbon footprint, increase their productivity and decrease their water consumption and inspire others to do the same.
Historically hemp was predominantly used as an industrial fibre due to its strength for sails, rope and paper.
Until development in the 1980’s made it possible to remove lignin from the hemp fibre without compromising its strength, hemp’s use for clothing and other non-industry uses wasn’t possible as it was too course for comfort.
But now there’s increasing interest from consumers, as its superior strength and ability to wear-in and not wear out is second to none. Hemp is anti-microbial, UV resistant, naturally mold, mildew and rot resistant and breathable.
Processing hemp for fibre here in Australia is still in its infancy. But with changing consumer attitudes and an interest in ethical clothing and how they’re made – there’s a niche here that is open for business.
Building with hemp is an environmental solution to other building materials, fast growing and more product per tonne than forest timbers creating sustainable and recyclable building materials such as: concrete, composite wood alternatives and natural fibre insulation.
Hemp buildings are:
- Energy efficient with a high R-Value depending on wall thickness
- Termite, mould and pest resistant
- Excellent acoustic performance
- Breathable, healthy and carbon neutral
- Fire resistant
Hemp buildings use standard frames with hemp placed within formwork within the frame. The walls are lime rendered on the outside to protect from weather and finished as desired internally – although only breathable coatings are recommended internally and externally. As the walls dry they calcify and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Using hemp alleviates the pressure on logging forests, reduces constructions impact on the environment, and reduces the reliance on petro-chemical products.
The humble hemp seed packs a punch of health benefits.
In medieval times, monks would eat hemp seed gruel every day. It was also used as a famine food during World War 2 for China, Australia and across Europe. Hemp seed is now regarded as a ‘superfood’, one of the highest plant-based protein sources, containing all essential amino acids, Omega 3, 6 &9 in the right ratio optimal for human uptake, Vitamins B1, B2, B6, D, E, calcium, magnesium, potassium and is easily digested, absorbed and utilised in the body. Pretty impressive considering it was peasant food for centuries!
When the seed is pressed for oil all the essential fatty acids go into the oil while the proteins and many nutrients are left in the meal. The high protein high fibre meal goes into many products like hemp protein powder and hemp flour.
Hemp is great for adding to breakfast cereals, salads, smoothies, toppings and baking or just enjoy straight.
It is not recommended to use hemp for high heat cooking as you lose the benefit of the fatty acids.
Since legislation has changed in Australia legalising it as a food source, an entire industry has began to grow to make available this super seed’s goodness. You may have seen supermarket isles increasingly populated with hemp products (sadly many inferior misleading products). So too have cafes and restaurants jumped on the health kick of hemp in their menus. The more the better we think, both for the health of individuals and for the success of the Australian industry.
In Australia, the growing of hemp is covered by the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2018.
A licence is required in Victoria to grow hemp for food / cosmetics (seeds) and fibre (textiles, rope, building materials).
Licences are issued through Agriculture Victoria at a current cost of $433.50 for the first year. Other associated costs for licencing are:
Any one who handles hemp must have a licence even if you do not grow hemp, i.e. if you process seed for oil, or are a seed merchant selling seed.
Applicants must provide a police history check, credit report, business or research plan and for growers’ information about the proposed site(s).
The licence does not permit processing of leaves and flowers for cannabinoids and hemp cannot be grown for medicinal / therapeutic purposes as this is heavily regulated by the Australian Government.
The licence denotes the site where the hemp can be cultivated, therefore if expansion of cultivation area is required the licensee must apply to amend the licence to include the new areas. All areas for licencing will be assessed by the department for approval.
Testing of crops are routinely made during the growing period to test the THC level of the crop.
It must be noted also that other states have differing legal requirements for THC levels, making seed and fibre sales and movement between states difficult. All states are working to correct this anomaly.
More information can be found on Agriculture Victoria’s website:
The difference between hemp, cannabis and marijuana.
Due to its demonisation by Governments globally, hemp is still thought of as being marijuana, which is the stigma we need to abolish.
The botanical classification of hemp is:
Species: Sativa, Indica (the two most common species)
Strains: Hemp, Marijuana and many others
Hemp and marijuana again have many hundreds of strains
Chemical compounds making up Cannabis species are called Cannabinoids, the two most dominant compounds being Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the psychoactive compound found in high levels (> 10%) in female marijuana plants – specifically the flowers/buds, while hemp has low levels of THC and must have less than 0.3% to be legally grown under licence for food and fibre in Victoria.
CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient and is in all species but in varying % regardless of the THC level and has many uses including medicinal.
There are many hundreds of strains of hemp seeds, so finding the right one for a particular site and application needs research by the prospective grower.
Hemp has a variety of uses: food, textiles, cosmetics, building materials, oils, bio-fuels, auto parts, fibre glass and plastics alternative.
Fibre crops can grow to 2 m in height and are harvested before they seed, while seed crops generally grow no higher than 1 metre.
Marijuana is grown only for its recreational and medicinal properties and is still illegal to grow and use in Australia.
So when we talk about hemp, we are talking about food and fibre derivatives of low THC cannabis strains.
To develop the industry in Australia, farmers need to see a viable crop. To make this crop viable, there needs to be a market for the end product. Industrial hemp has so many uses, therefore it is logical to start with crops that are most cost effective to produce that can guarantee viable outputs – fibre.
Fibre crops can utilise most of the plant, with the root system tilled back into the soil for reinvigorating soil for future crops.
Uses for fibre crops include hempcrete, insulation wool, garden mulch, wadding, animal bedding.
In a world of diminishing forests with increasing demand for fibres of various kinds and increasing concern over the environmental impact of production systems, industrial hemp offers a valuable addition to agricultural production. Hemp fibre could be used as a sustainable substitute for timber in paper and pulp processing.
With its food value yet to be fully realised, it could prove to be an ideal supplement for animals and humans. The oil is reputed to have many health benefits, not the least of which is an easily digestible combination of Omegas 3, 6 and 9 otherwise provided by deep sea fish.
Until the scale of production increases significantly, and efficient machinery is employed in value-adding systems, the economics of industrial hemp production and marketing in Australia will remain something of an unknown. Scale of production will only come in response to consumer demand.
Hemp food products are now legal to grow and consume under the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code after a landmark decision made in South Australia on 12 November 2017. Hemp fell under a classification that prohibited all species of cannabis from being added to food or sold as a food.
An ongoing campaign to change food regulations culminated in a meeting of federal and state food ministers where it was decided low-THC hemp seeds were fit for human consumption.
To be clear, hemp foods sold in Australia are low enough in THC (the hallucinogenic substance found in marijuana) that you cannot get high.