A group of Derrinallum farmers is already well advanced to take advantage of legislation expected to come into effect in November that will approve the sale of low THC hemp seed for foods and other products..
The group established Australian Primary Hemp (APH) a year ago after years of research and has already grown a trial 44 hectare crop.
This year the company will plant 90 hectares at Derrinallum and is seeking more growers to boost the harvest from the Western District to about 300 hectares.
He said the hemp could be planted in late October in the Western District but APH was looking at staggering plantings to spread its supply time.
The group, which includes James Hood, Charlie and Alexandra Mann and Skye Patterson, got interested in growing industrial hemp, which has no drug effects, when they were looking at producing alternative sources of protein.
Mr Hood said this year’s legislation would end 80 years of prohibition against the human consumption of food grade hemp in Australia that had left it lagging behind many international competitors.
Growers in Australia will need to be licensed to grow the crop that is only allowed be have a maximum tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of .0.35 per cent to be sold.
Mr Hood said there were thousands of uses for industrial hemp but the group had focused on growing hemp for seed rather than fibre because hemp seed could be harvested with conventional headers.
High fibre hemp protein was a “super food,” high in a good balance of omega three and six fatty acids, and enjoyed strong international demand, he said.
APH also produces hemp oil, used for cooking.
Domestic demand was expected to rise significantly as the product became better known following its imminent approval for human consumption in Australia, Mr Hood said.
APH is currently one of only about five growers of low THC hemp in Victoria and this year hopes to harvest about 300 tonnes of Finola variety seed.
It has used an external operator to process its seed but is presently building its own processing facility in Geelong in a further commitment to the emerging industry.