Monday, August 12, 2013

Growing interest in hemp

SARAH HARRIS - © Fairfax NZ News
tdn hemp stand
A hemp crop ready for harvesting.
Taranaki could be the new centre for hemp in New Zealand, with an estimated 40 hectares to be planted in the next year.
Work has started on the region's first hemp home, to be built in Bell Block.
Hemp insulation is attached to the timber frame and then rendered with a hemp plaster to form the exterior.
Lance Palmer, managing director of Fowler Homes, chose to make his house out of hemp as it achieves thermal mass and insulation, he said.
"It's exciting, but also in the same breath, if you take the romance out of it, being the first means you're the first to go through the trials and tribulations."
It takes around six tonnes, or 1 hectare, of hemp to build one house.
"I just think it's really quite a fantastic plant," Mr Palmer said.
"The more I've learnt about it in the last 12 months, the more I'm impressed with its potential. I think it's going to progressively grow in Taranaki. It's going to come down to public and commercial acceptance."
Taranaki man Greg Flavall founded Hemp Technologies in 2008 after learning about the many benefits of industrial hemp.
He said the industry "has got a lot of legs" and was assisting many new farmers planning to grow hemp this spring. About six new farmers are interested.
The plant grows quickly, efficiently and is beneficial to the environment, he said.
"If only 1 per cent of the agricultural land in this country farmed hemp we'd have enough building insulation material for all the new home construction in this country."
John Earney, a Stratford farmer, hopes to begin growing hemp on part of his 69-hectare farm this October.
"I've known about hemp for a long time. I just know it's the plant [because] it beats trees, it beats pasture, it looks after the planet. It's just such a universal plant."
The licence cost about $760 and the seed $3000 per acre, said Mr Earney. "It will be a good cash crop. The industry could be huge."
Hemp homes are comparable to brick and block construction in terms of cost. However, the material has a lifespan of 500 years, said Mr Flavall.
The oldest hemp home, in Japan, is 350-years-old.
Most people choose to use hemp for the environmental, energy and health benefits.
Hemp is primarily used for food, animal bedding and building. It has a range of environmental benefits, from reducing the amount of CO2 in the air to producing four times as much natural fibre as trees.

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Hemp oil is a nutritional food source as it is the second highest protein crop (after soy beans) and is a good source of Omega 3.
The crop is planted in October and harvested in March or April.
Sarah Harris is an AUT journalism student - © Fairfax NZ News

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