A new project aiming to establish a hemp seed processing plant in New Zealand has received backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Hemp Connect's two-year pilot project ultimately aims to enable locally grown hemp food products to compete with imported varieties.
Since 2020, the Levin-based company has been working on creative solutions for processing New Zealand grown hemp more efficiently and reducing production costs.
"One of the keys to reducing costs has been researching how to use the entire seed, as well as the associated waste streams," managing director of Hemp Connect Mathew Johnson said.
The project could be a game-changer for the local hemp industry.
"Our goal with this project is to make hemp food production in New Zealand a viable and internationally competitive option."
Traditionally, the cost of importing hemp food had been significantly cheaper than producing it locally, Johnson said.
"By increasing the scale of production, new product developments such as husk bi-products, hemp sprouts and animal feed will become more economically viable."
Hemp Connect had been working to modify its existing equipment, Johnson said.
"[We] have researched equipment from all over the world to find ways of getting the most out of every hemp seed."
With the help of others, Hemp Connect applied its "Number 8 Wire thinking" to an industry that had been around for centuries - but without the New Zealand touch, Johnson said.
"We have loved working with so many people, including our new staff, engineers, electricians and pneumatic specialists."
MPI is contributing more than $245,000 to the project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.
Hemp Connect was "delighted" to partner with MPI to prove its concept at a larger scale, Johnson said.
"[We] look forward to working hard over the next two years to make this a reality."
The project worked well with the Ministry's Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential roadmap, MPI's director of investment programmes, Steve Penno said.
The roadmap included strengthening the environmental credentials of Kiwi food and fibre products, and driving further growth in the value of New Zealand products
"Hemp doesn't need chemicals and is drought tolerant, so it has environmental benefits.
"One of the most exciting aspects of this project will be enabling Hemp Connect to develop products that have never been produced domestically or internationally."