New Zealand Hemp Processing Facility Progressing

Hemp processing in New Zealand
Image: NZ Yarn

NZ Yarn has announced it will soon begin installing hemp fibre processing equipment in a space at its factory in Burnside, Christchurch.

The new plant incorporates a decorticator that will separate hemp stalks into fibre and hurd. Hemp fibre can be used for many applications ranging from clothing to furniture coverings and flooring. Among its attributes, hemp fibre doesn’t require chemical processing or bleaching, is strong and durable, has good breathability and anti-bacterial properties.

The hurd (or shiv), is the woody core material of the hemp plant – it has applications as a fire retardant, in insulation and can be used to create paper and bioplastic products.

You can learn more about how hemp fibre is produced here.

The processing equipment, the first of its type to be used in New Zealand, is being imported from the UK in a couple of shipments. The facility is being established in a joint partnership between NZ Yarn and Hemp New Zealand Ltd. Last year Hemp New Zealand acquired a 15% interest in NZ Yarn.

The machinery is expected to be operational at the end of this year, after which commercial processing of hemp stalks into fibre will commence using crop material from the 2019 harvest.

“We’re expecting to be able to produce a very high quality fibre using efficient processing techniques,” said Dave Jordan, chief executive of Hemp New Zealand. “This will help place New Zealand at the forefront of hemp and natural fibre innovation globally”.

It’s a big jump from wool processing to hemp for NZ Yarn, but CEO Colin McKenzie is confident of success and sees hemp as being a good blend with its wool operations – quite literally.

“There are many, many potential uses for hemp and flax fibre in woven products and it has tremendously exciting potential across a variety of sectors,” he said. “Among the possible uses we are exploring are wool and hemp blends for use in soft flooring, and we know from conversations with our customers that there is already strong interest in this type of product.”

Hemp can be grown in New Zealand with licence from the Ministry of Health. A secure site is required, must be than 5 kilometres from a school and the growing area cannot be visible from a street.