Hemp can be a difficult crop to harvest, it's ropy and gets tangled in harvesting machinery, but that's not stopping it from being a growing industry in Tasmania.
Commercial hemp farms in Tasmania have grown steadily over the past decade, and the state now produces about 80 per cent of Australia's hemp crop.
Tasmanian hemp harvest season is underway, with some farmers collecting the hemp seeds and others still waiting for that Goldilocks moment for their crops.
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Cressy-based hemp farmer Chris Bayles is no stranger to the crop, his father has been involved in growing help for 10 years, but he has only had three years worth of growth.
Mr Bayles said he was invested in the crop because it fits nicely with his farm's mixed cropping operation.
"It's such a great filler crop, we had a paddock that we weren't doing anything with, but it worked well with our other rotations," he said.
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The hemp crop was planted in December and will be ready to harvest in a matter of weeks.
Mr Bayles said the short growing time was one of the reasons the crop enticed his family.
Tasmania's commercial hemp area grew 15 per cent in 2019-20, rising from 1361 to 1569 hectares, according to data from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks Water and Environment.
Nutrien Ag Solutions agronomist Emily Ruffo said hemp was a growing industry in Tasmania and had a bright future, as long as Tasmania could leverage off international conditions.
"It really does depend on the worldwide markets, because at the moment hemp can be produced more cheaply in Canada and imported across the world," she said.
"If the farmers in Tasmania can leverage off being Australian-grown and leverage off the clean, green Tasmanian brand, I definitely think the commercial hemp industry has a future."
Ms Ruffo said she didn't know much about hemp before starting with Nutrien Ag Solutions but had learned on the job alongside one of her farmer clients.
"I had a client who was super passionate about hemp and so we learned on the go," she said.
Hemp is exceptionally well suited to Tasmania's climate and agricultural conditions and responds well to simple water and fertiliser measures.
Ms Ruffo said management techniques were also becoming more sophisticated to deal with the problems growers faced.
The most significant two issues facing farmers like Mr Bayles was how rough the plant could be on harvesting machinery and the heliothis caterpillar. This pest can devastate a crop.
"The heliothis caterpillar has been particularly bad this year, we had to spray for it twice," Mr Bayles said.
"It can be pretty devastating if it gets into a paddock, because basically they eat the entire seed."
Ms Ruffo said the heliothis caterpillar laid its eggs in December and hatched soon after, and the larvae "suck out the embryo of the hemp seed".
However, she said she'd been working with her clients to help address that, with a new program to spray an active virus onto the plants to attack the pest.
She said trials with the virus had proven successful.
Another issue facing hemp farmers is the large amount of waste that comes with planting a hemp crop.
Mr Bayles, who will have a yield of about a tonne this year, produces hemp seed for human consumption in protein bars or other applications.
But, he said, once the seed was harvested, the stubble that's left behind is worthless.
However, a plan is in the works to address this, with new start-up Hemp-X, a company founded by Tasmanian Hemp Association executive officer Andi Lucas.
Ms Lucas is in the process of purchasing a specially made mobile hemp processing unit to Tasmania to be used for baling up hemp stubble for use in sustainable housing, animal bedding and mulch.
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Hemp stubble can also be compacted to be used in a relatively new product called Hempcrete, an alternative to concrete used for housing.
Mr Bayles and Ms Ruffo said the work Ms Lucas was doing was inspiring, and if successful, would see hemp become a dual-income stream for the farmer.
"We are going to try and do our own bales this year, we've never done it before, but if Hemp-X gets off the ground it will be pretty exciting," Mr Bayles said.
He said the hemp stubble at the moment had no use.