Myths and misconceptions abound about hemp, but it is a crop with huge potential for Australia.
With a diverse, exciting range of uses - and the ability to be grown quickly right across the country - world-class research in industrial hemp, some of which is being funded by AgriFutures Australia, is underway.
The world is changing as agriculture opens to new markets and consumers demand new products.
Australia needs to continue to invest in new and emerging industries, with additional food security front of mind for everyone.
Supporting the early stage establishment of high potential rural industries is a key priority for AgriFutures Australia.
We are dedicated to identifying and supporting the development of these industries that can meet changing demand and make an economic contribution to Australia.
AgriFutures Australia is investing in opportunities to help the national industrial hemp industry reach $10 million in gross value of production per annum within five years.
In November 2017, production and supply of hemp as a food source was legalised in Australia and in 2019-20 there were 2500 hectares of hemp cultivated in Australia.
This was up 95.5 per cent from the 111ha cultivated nationally in 2012, according to the AgriFutures Australia Annual Report 2019-20.
Figures released by the Western Australian Government show the area dedicated to growing hemp in that state has increased from 68ha in 2017-18, to 494ha in 2018-29 and 282ha in 2019-20.
Hemp as a novel food ingredient has significant health benefits.
It is high in omega oils and proteins and a rich source of B vitamins, manganese, zinc, iron and magnesium.
There are opportunities to add value through processing to produce other products, such as hemp seed oil, hemp flour, hemp butter and hemp milk.
Beyond its food potential, hemp is a versatile ingredient and is already used extensively in Asia and Europe - particularly for fibre.
But that is only a part of the story.
Hemp has multi-directional strength.
So, besides food, it can also be used in building, clothing, paper, textiles, medicine, clothing and biofuels.
Hemp can be grown with few, if any, chemicals and it is on course to become not just an 'alternative' crop for Australian farmers, but an important one that is easy to transition to - or add into - their rotation.
With opportunities emerging to potentially fast track hemp production, designing and delivering world-class research is key.
AgriFutures Australia is working with the hemp industry, including the national industry body - the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance - on the development of a dedicated hemp research, development and extension plan.
We know from experience with other emerging agricultural industries that an RD&E plan that identifies opportunities and gaps is a crucial step towards growth and an essential roadmap.
Another key project AgriFutures Australia is developing the national industrial hemp variety trial program - in consultation with state departments and breeding companies.
Increasing production of industrial hemp will underpin industry growth. So, we need credible information about hemp varieties and their suitability for cropping in Australia.
Research into how best to integrate livestock into hemp cropping - using sheep to graze hemp plants or finding more effective ways to process and use hemp fibre, which is currently a wasted by-product - are some of our other projects that will benefit the industry, and which may include improving on-farm hemp agronomy in the future.
Future thinking, resilient, profitable, and competitive rural industries that actively consider what is coming next - and are well placed to respond - are widely supported by the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program.
These investments provide the support needed to ensure the early stages of success in delivering a profitable hemp commodity for Australian farmers.
AgriFutures Australia is investing in key research now to support industrial hemp well into the future.
The story AgriFutures Australia is planting the seeds of success for industrial hemp first appeared on Stock & Land.