On a 5ha block of land just north of Otane, Kanapu Hemp Foods Ltd's newest crop of hemp seedlings are starting to pop their heads above ground after being planted seven days ago.
The latest addition, grown from a seed variety from France, adds to 10ha already planted and is the next step in this progressive industry, well-established in many countries overseas, which co-founders Isaac Beach and Simon White want to expand here in Hawke's Bay.
Another 15ha were due to be planted at Ludlow Farms within the next couple of weeks, and would be manufactured into hemp seed oil, which was launched on to the market this year, sold to restaurants and in specialty food shops.
As well as producing the oil, however, the company was now piloting a hemp seed flour product containing 35 per cent protein, and was in the process of installing a processing line that would enable them to manufacture dehulled hemp seeds (Kanapu hemp flakes), a product similar in texture to finely ground nuts, that had many culinary uses as well as being an attractive health proposition, said Mr Beach.
The appeal for many consumers was in the health-enhancing properties of the plant protein, as well as its versatility, with the flour being able to be used in baking, or added to smoothies, and the hemp flakes suitable for anything from dukkah to a vegan substitute for butter.
"Our research showed that for some people complications can develop from whey protein, and that plant protein is a great alternative.
"Hemp has a high concentration of albumin and edisten proteins, and can be very efficiently absorbed by the body," he said.
At this point the business was in the first phase of startup, they had tested the market, found it was sustainable, and were currently meeting demand.
Mr Beach described Mr White as the brains of the operation, and himself the messenger, but both shared a belief in the plant's potential, ever since they met and began growing the crop in Otane in 2015.
Mr White said Ludlow Farms was a diverse operation, and that as a farmer he was always looking for the next big thing.
"By sheer chance Isaac and I met and it went from there - we developed a business plan over a cup of tea.
"Adding a new crop like this became more and more interesting as we went along."
Mr Beach said he discovered the plant when he was looking at providing affordable homes and came across hempcrete building material.
"I became fascinated by all the other properties, and saw the trend offshore, as well as the gap in the market here."
Having travelled a lot over the last few years networking and researching it was inspiring to see the reality of what people were achieving overseas, he said, and a compelling prospect to explore local potential.
With all likelihood that demand would grow, the pair's vision was that Hawke's Bay could become the hemp tech hub of New Zealand.