Aimee Shaw is a business reporter focusing on retail, small business

Small Business: Growing hemp to be eaten and to make cars - Hemp Farm NZ

Dave Jordan, founder of Hemp Farm NZ. Photo / Supplied
Dave Jordan, founder of Hemp Farm NZ. Photo / Supplied

Hemp farmer Dave Jordan discusses the potential for New Zealand's hemp market and how the plant has a wide-range of uses.

What does your business do?

Hemp Farm NZ has been enabling the industry for 10 years, we have articulated a strategic plan to bring whole hemp plants to the New Zealand market through numerous end-use products and ultimately take NZ organic hemp to the world.

We have educated the market since 2008 and taken products to the market since 2011. We have grown predominantly tall dual crops every year since 2008 while developing harvesting and processing methods and facilities which form the much-needed infrastructure for this emerging industry. We are vertically integrating our business through a strategy we believe will fit within a New Zealand context once hemp farming is recognised as a major industry here.

What was the motivation for starting Hemp Farm?

Hemp is humanity's companion plant. It is in our DNA. The motivation to start this began from the realisation of these facts and how utilising the plant will change environmental, social and economic challenges we are facing today. Hemp is the new industrial revolution from days of the old.

How does the business make money?

We make revenue by selling hemp seed oils, a skin care range and capsules to the New Zealand market. It is this revenue which has enabled the company to grow and invest into cropping and education of hemp to New Zealand.

Food law changed last month to make hemp seeds legal for human consumption - what will that do for the industry?

There's massive potential for both human and animal consumption, but there's also a lot of potential for industrial uses of hemp seed as well. Food is actually one side of it, but now that food law has changed it will actually help a lot of other industries and there will be a follow-on effect from that.

We're focused on whole plants - for food and fibre. The fibre industry has huge potential to fill gaps around bio-mass requirements - future generations are going to have the benefit of this more than we are. Hemp produces over four times the amount of fibre as pine tree forests over the same length of time so the opportunity is immense.

What do you mean by hemp as a fibre and what uses does it have?

The building you're in, car you drive, fuel, clothes that you wear, carpet you stand on - everything around you - those can all be made of hemp and by making those things out of hemp it creates economic opportunities, locking up carbon from the atmosphere into product, and a safer product that doesn't use chemicals.

Fibre is bigger than the food potential but food is what is going to wake up a lot of people. Hemp is a high-profile food, top of the food chain. It is the most nutritional seed on the planet. The rest of the plant can be used for a lot of things, and even the leaf material, which is still taboo. The leaf has the CBD [cannabidiol] medical side and governments are still concerned CBD will contaminate food chains.

Whole hemp seeds. Photo / Supplied
Whole hemp seeds. Photo / Supplied

When will hemp become mainstream?

We're already working with a lot of food manufacturers and distributors around the country. We have about 500 hectares of hemp this year, next year we're looking at least 2000 - food and fibre crops. What will happen as it grows it will start to find its own way. We find a lot of university students are already doing work around the plant-based economy and excited about that.

You say cars can be made from the fibre of hemp - how?

The bodies of cars are made from hemp, interiors and door panels are made of hemp - they are stronger, lighter and block up carbons from the atmosphere. In the 1940s Henry Ford built a hemp car but it was taken off the shelf because the steel and oil companies said no he couldn't do that as it was uneconomic for them.

The latest BMW is made from hemp composites, Tesla is starting to look at hemp, there are so many car companies that are already doing it. It can be used around road and property construction - where they use cement we could use hemp.

What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?

Think about the consumer and how you can integrate your idea or product into the consumer world because that's where the key lies.

- NZ Herald

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