NEXT spring, rather than planting the usual crops, why not plant industrial hemp? According to Northern Rivers Hemp, there's a massive demand nationally and internationally for industrial hemp and a shortage of supply.
Klara Marosszeky from The Australian Hemp Masonry Company said local farmers thinking about a change can get much bigger returns from growing industrial hemp than they can from other crops.
"Farmers can get $500 per tonne for fibre and you can get at least 10 tonnes from one hectare," Klara said. "In this region, we have trialled 18 industrial hemp cultivar varieties over the last eight years on every soil type - it will grow nearly anywhere except in water-logged places. It's a very versatile and hardy plant and will grow with half the water needed to grow lucerne."
"We currently have about 20 hectares of industrial hemp under cultivation in the North Coast area, but we need 1000 hectares to meet the demand of the building industry," Klara said.
A forum being held on Saturday will give farmers an opportunity to get accurate information about opportunities to grow industrial hemp as part of a regulated industry.
Klara has spent the last 12 years developing hemp masonry to build energy-efficient housing with breathing walls that never grow mould. Now there's so much interest in the product, overseas companies want to licence it.
Industrial hemp can be integrated into many existing industries; at the moment, a company on the Central Coast is making hemp palettes. It can also be used in latex, mattresses, pillows, ropes, oils, fibreglass replacements, food, pharmaceuticals, automobile panels and plastics.
Locally, Dr Keith Bolton has been using hemp as a bio-remediator to remove contaminants from soil and he'll be at the forum to answer any questions people may have about 'mop crops'.
Hemp food tasting will also be a highlight of the event with local entrepreneur Andrew Kavasilas, who believes we should be drinking milk made from industrial hemp seeds.
"It's high in essential acids and more nutritious than soy milk," Mr Kavasilas said.
Forum at City Hall
This Saturday, June 23, from 10am-12pm, Northern Rivers Hemp will be holding a forum at Lismore City Hall Fountain Room and invites anyone interested in growing, manufacturing or marketing hemp products to come along.