New Zealand's first iHemp Summit will be held in July with the aim of kick-starting a home-grown iHemp (industrial hemp) economy.

Building on global interest in hemp business opportunities and fuelled by changing legislation, the summit will explore the potential for New Zealand to be the best in the world at growing and using hemp for food, fibre and medicine.

"New Zealand has a fantastic opportunity to create a brand new primary industry based on hemp, and now is the time for an informed discussion," says Richard Barge, Chairman of the iHemp Summit & Treasurer of the NZ Hemp Industries Association Inc (NZHIA).

"iHemp is being recognised as a sustainable source of food, fibre and medicine and this creates opportunities for companies to make it part of their future business plan and be part of what is projected by some analysts to be a $NZ75 billion global industry by 2025."

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Richard Barge, Chairman of the iHemp Summit & Treasurer of the NZ Hemp Industries Association Inc (NZHIA). Photo / Supplied
Richard Barge, Chairman of the iHemp Summit & Treasurer of the NZ Hemp Industries Association Inc (NZHIA). Photo / Supplied

The iHemp Summit is open to companies, farmers, scientists, funders, community leaders, economic development representatives, regulators and others wanting to look at opportunities to collaboratively develop the New Zealand industrial hemp economy.

At the summit experts will share local and international knowledge on hemp, identify the local and export opportunities available to companies entering the industry, highlight the barriers to success within the market and develop strategies and relationships that will help the industry to overcome them.

"Serious momentum is beginning to build globally in the iHemp industry as people become aware of the potential. New business opportunities are being created by legislative changes in areas such as hemp-seed law for food and the use of cannabis in medicine", says Andrew Gibbs, Partner, Deloitte.

In New Zealand food safety authorities are currently looking to follow Australia to allow hemp seed to be used in food by changing regulations under the Food Act, the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Medicines Act. These law changes expected later this year will allow hemp seed to be sold as a food in New Zealand, in addition to the current legislation allowing the local sale of hemp seed oil.

Andrew Davidson, Director of Midlands Seed and Midlands Nutritional Oils, says: "Demand for our Cold Pressed hemp seed oil is being fuelled by interest in its beneficial health properties. It's rich in essential fatty acids such as Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, Omega 3) and Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). These are the sort of speciality products that are also attracting the rapidly growing market of vegetarian and vegan consumers looking for new protein sources.

"There is enormous potential in hemp food products and the market is growing around 25% year on year. Legislative changes that will allow other hemp seed based foods will open up new sources of income and markets for the crop, potentially tripling plantings in the next few years."

Mr Barge adds, "Kiwi ingenuity has a lot to offer the emerging iHemp industry. We have talented people that can create solutions and improvements for growing and processing our annual crop, in to a wide range of exportable products and technology in food, fibre and medicine. To make the most of the opportunity we need to set the vision for our country's industrial hemp value chain and the summit can play an important role in this."

The summit is being co-ordinated by the NZ Hemp Industries Association Inc (NZHIA), which has been promoting the iHemp industry since 1997, with sponsorship and support from Midlands Seed/Midlands Nutritional Oils, Agmardt, Hemptastic, Hill Laboratories, Ligar, KiwiNet, Nutrient Rescue and Plus Group Horticulture.

The inaugural iHemp Summit will take place at in Wellington on 5th and 6th July 2018. For details see https://hempsummit.nz/
Speakers at the iHemp Summit include:

Phil Warner - Founder & Chief Executive of Ecofibre
Andrew Davidson - a Director of Midlands Seed and Midlands Nutritional Oils
Andrew Gibbs - a Partner at Deloitte
Jeff Kostuik - Director of Operations at Hemp Genetics International
Bob Doyle - Managing Director of Hemp International Australia
Bryan Wilson - DDG for Regulations & Assurance at MPI
Paul Morgan - Managing Director of Fomana Capital
Steve Saunders - Chairman of Plus Group
Manu Caddie - Managing Director of Hikurangi
Miriana Stephens - a Director of Wakatū Incorporation
Kim Pickering - University of Waikato Professor
Stephen Tallon - Callaghan Innovation Senior Research Engineer
Maggie Davidson - Western Sydney University lecturer & researcher
Dr Mike Nichols - retired scientist who lectured in horticultural science at Massey University for over 40 years,
Simon Rowell - owner of Innovation Liberation Front
Renata Hakiwai - Chief Executive of Whenua Kura
Mack McIntosh - Chairman of the NZHIA
Richard Barge - CEO of Hemptastic and the iHemp Summit Chair