A new project backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) aims to establish a hemp seed processing plant in New Zealand that could be a game changer for the local hemp industry.
MPI is contributing more than $245,000 to Hemp Connect's 2-year pilot project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.
The project ultimately aims to enable locally grown hemp food products to compete with imported varieties. Since 2020, the Levin-based company has been working on creative solutions for processing New Zealand grown hemp more efficiently and reducing production costs.
"One of the keys to reducing costs has been researching how to use the entire seed, as well as the associated waste streams," says Mathew Johnson, managing director, Hemp Connect.
"Our goal with this project is to make hemp food production in New Zealand a viable and internationally competitive option."
Mathew Johnson says traditionally, the cost of importing hemp food has been significantly cheaper than producing it locally.
"By increasing the scale of production, new product developments such as husk by-products, hemp sprouts and animal feed will become more economically viable," he says.
"We’ve been working tirelessly to modify our existing equipment and have researched equipment from all over the world to find ways of getting the most out of every hemp seed.
"Kiwis are incredible thinkers when it comes to innovation, particularly in the food and beverage industry. We have loved working with so many people, including our new staff, engineers, electricians and pneumatic specialists, to apply our number 8 wire and problem-solving skills to an industry that has been around for centuries, but without the New Zealand touch.
"We’re delighted to be partnering with MPI to prove our concept at a larger scale, and look forward to working hard over the next 2 years to make this a reality."
"This project fits with our Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential roadmap, which includes strengthening the environmental credentials of our food and fibre products, and driving further growth in the value of New Zealand products," says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.
"Hemp doesn’t need chemicals and is drought tolerant, so it has environmental benefits. One of the most exciting aspects of this project will be enabling Hemp Connect to develop products that have never been produced domestically or internationally."