Government invests $1.34m in hemp research

The Ministry for Primary Industries is investing $1.34 million in hemp research and development through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures).

Funding recipient New Zealand Natural Fibres (NZFN) is itself putting $2 million into the five-year programme, which will explore flooring, food packaging and activewear among other innovations.

NZFN chief executive Colin McKenzie says it’s pleasing to have government backing.

“Hemp has huge potential to be part of the solution to some of the most crucial environmental challenges facing our planet today,” McKenzie says.

He says the funding will be used to both ramp up innovation and enhance the company’s growing, processing and marketing capability to propel it toward a global leadership position in the industry.

On the innovation side, NZNF will be developing blended wool and hemp fibres for use in soft flooring and outdoor activewear, McKenzie says.

“We’re also developing and testing non-woven products, including a natural hemp fibre-based material that could replace single-use plastic food packaging, and a hemp fibre replacement for synthetic geotextiles used to stabilise soil in infrastructure works.

“We plan to investigate using hemp fibre to produce a natural replacement for carbon composites, packaging and building materials, plus other industrial applications.”

The investment builds on a previous SFF Futures grant of $202,000 to develop sustainable technology and processes to produce fit-for-purpose hemp fibre from harvested stems, without the use of chemicals.

MPI investment programmes director Steve Penno says NZNF will focus on hemp plant genetics, including sourcing and developing new varieties, on-farm production, and agronomic development.

Penno says the project aligns well with Fit for a Better World, the Government’s food and fibre sector roadmap guiding New Zealand’s export-led recovery from Covid-19.

“SFF Futures is a key part of our drive to offer transformational opportunities to boost the contribution of the primary sector and lead the way to a more sustainable economy.

“This project aims to do just that – by showcasing Kiwi innovation at its best. It promises to add considerable value to our hemp fibre industry, and potentially to our local and national economies.”

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog