They wanted to find an alternative protein source for the Australian market, so after deciding the nation did not have an appetite for crickets yet, the producers behind Australian Primary Hemp chose to introduce a new hemp variety instead.
Four producers set up the hemp brand in Geelong, focusing on the finola variety that is popular in North America, but is relatively new to the Australian market.
Agricultural Relations manager Mitch Costin said hemp had predominantly been grown as a fibre crop, but finola was specifically bred as a short-stature seed crop that could be grown in between other crops.
“Finola flowers as early as 27 days from sowing. The early maturity provides great flexibility for growers that other varieties don’t. Instead of talking about 120 days to reach crop maturity, you might be talking about 90 to 100 days,” Mr Costin said.
“You can squeeze it in if you’ve got a crop that is running late, or if your season is out of whack with what you expected.”
More than a third of Canada’s hemp crop is finola, with some growers yielding up to 3.2 tonnes per hectare.
A finola crop was trialled with other hemp crops in Tasmania in 2010, but it was not deemed successful, which has impacted the variety’s introduction in the state.
“The other crops yielded similar amounts to finola, which was under 200 kilograms to the hectare, which is obviously not a profitable yield in today’s market,” Mr Costin said.
Mr Costin said a number of factors affected that 2010 crop, including a once-only trial, contamination in the paddock from previous poppy and buckwheat crops, lack of irrigation and extensive flooding.
“It hasn’t had a really good go here and been given the proper conditions to give it a good crack,” he said.
Australian Primary Hemp wants Tasmanian growers to consider the finola crop.
The business produces hemp seeds, cold-pressed hemp seed oil and protein powders Boost and Balance from the hemp cake that is left after the oil is pressed.
Growers have been trialling finola hemp in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and South Australia but demand already outweighs supply – and Australian Primary Hemp expects this to continue, Marketing and Communications manager Georgina Beasley said.
“Since November last year we’ve seen a massive demand spike for hemp in Australia, specifically Australian-grown hemp,” Ms Beasley said.
“Our last season isn’t going to be enough to sustain us through so we need to get more farmers on board growing hemp.”