THE proposed trial of Industrial Hemp at the SuniTAFE SMART Farm has taken an important step forward, with the allocation of land where hemp will grow, already cleared.


A collaboration between Australian Primary Hemp (APH) and SuniTAFE will see the land at SuniTAFE’s SMART Farm set aside for hemp plantings, to assess its suitability to collect data on low-THC hemp varieties.


The project has received the strong advocacy of the Member for Mildura, Ali Cupper, who sits on the Victorian Government Parliamentary Industrial Hemp Taskforce, alongside Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes.


Ms Cupper said the partnership was exciting for Sunraysia with the potential to grow a new industry in the region.


“The Industrial Hemp Taskforce was established to investigate the potential for production of hemp production in Victoria, and I’m rapt the first big partnership to be established out of the taskforce is in Mildura,” she said.


Minister Symes anticipates the trial could also have wide reaching benefits across Victoria.


“This is exciting, not only for SuniTAFE and Mildura, but for all of Victoria. Hemp is a promising emerging commodity and it’s fantastic that Mildura gets to be at the forefront of our investment in this growing industry,” she said.


Industrial hemp should not be confused with marijuana, with the proposed hemp crop a variety naturally low in THC – under 0.35 per cent – so there are no psychoactive effects.


Founded in 2016, APH supports a grower network spanning Australia, but has chosen to conduct trails in Mildura because of its unique growing conditions.


APH co-founder James Hood said that over the past four years, the company had observed that the hemp plant is very resilient to most pests and disease, and that it is an efficient user of water and has regenerative soil properties.


“Our research to date also indicates that longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures may provide a window for good seed yields, as well as biomass and cannabinoid production”.


Hemp is said to have ‘superfood’ qualities such as containing all essential amino acids and being rich in omegas, and is increasingly popular in overseas markets.


The ban on the cultivation of hemp was lifted in April 2017, with the crop now classified fit for human consumption and riding a wave of increased consumer demand.


APH CEO Neale Joseph said as hemp pioneers, APH is thrilled to be working with SuniTAFE to promote and grow hemp and see a great future in our partnership for the Sunraysia area.


“We are grateful for the support we are all getting from the Victorian Industrial Hemp Taskforce too,” he said.


SuniTAFE CEO Geoff Dea said the project fits ideally with the purpose of their SMART Farm.


“The SMART Farm is aimed at showing people how to cultivate the crops that we traditionally grow in our region which are all represented at our Cardross farm,” he said.


“The another purpose of the farm is to act as a trial site for crops that growers in our region maybe contemplating planting.


“We saw this opportunity, supported by Ali Cupper, in conjunction with APH, to trial a crop that could well be of interest to growers in our region in the future.”


Mr Dea said that the trial places SuniTAFE and their students at the forefront of an emerging commodity.


“It will bring the scientific elements of crop harvesting, production and analysis into the classroom for the benefit of our future farmers and the horticulture sector more broadly,” he said.


“These are exciting times indeed, and the liaison between Australian Primary Hemp, the Parliamentary Taskforce and our key stakeholders just reinforces the strategic importance of pioneering this relatively new and widely unknown commodity.”


Mr Dea acknowledged the rigour surrounding the process involved in the issuing of a licence to produce industrial hemp.


“SuniTAFE hasn’t planted anything yet, we are in the process of obtaining the licences required now, but we have reached agreement with APH in the form of a memorandum of understanding in regard to future, ongoing production,” he said.


“We’ve cleared the parcel of land where the crop will be planted, and once the licence applications are processed and the process concluded, we will commence the planting.”