Australia’s Southern Cross University (SCU) is leading a research program with the goal of boosting the country’s industrial hemp industry.
Funded by Agrifutures Australia, the five-year $2.5 million Australian Industrial Hemp Program of Research (AIHPR) will focus on:
- seeds and varieties
- primary production
- hemp products
“The focus areas include securing a steady supply of well-characterised varieties, developing value-add processing methods, investigating the safe and beneficial use of hemp products in livestock and animal feed and generating information and tools for growers to understand the sustainability credentials of industrial hemp,” said lead researcher, Professor Tobias Kretzschmar.
AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Senior Manager Dr Olivia Reynolds is bullish on the potential for the local industrial hemp sector.
“The Australian industrial hemp industry is in its infancy but is rapidly growing, and the timing is perfect to plan and implement a pathway for growth,” said Dr. Reynolds.
Southern Cross University is no stranger to hemp research, with more than 15 years’ experience in the field according to the institution. In fact, its association with hemp research appears to go back even further; with a project in 2004 involving hemp being used to soak up effluent from a sewerage treatment works.
The AIHPR will be managed by SCU, which will be collaborating with other organisations including the Northern Territory’s Department of Industry Tourism and Trade, New South Wales’ Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University.
Among those attending the launch event at the University’s Northern Rivers campus late last month was country music singer James Blundell. Mr Blundell is also a hemp grower participating in a national trial at his property in Queensland’s Granite Belt.
“Industrial hemp is expected to be a $10 million industry in Australia by 2026 and with the help of the AIHPR it won’t stop there,” he stated.
According to the ABC, Australia’s hemp production has grown from just 100 hectares in 2013-14 to 2,300 hectares in 2020-21. Rules and regulations for the crop vary from state to state.
A fact sheet summarising the AIHPR can be found here.