Founded in 2013, Hemp Farms Australia aimed to establish strong foundations for Australia’s domestic hemp industry. Co-founders Harrisson Lee and Lauchlan Grout reflect on their journey so far.
We had heard of the benefits of cannabis from multiple sources and saw that the industry presented an opportunity.
Early on, we recognised the importance of genetics, as most early crops failed or lacked the uniformity required to harvest on a commercial scale. This was largely due to subpar genetics and minimal cultivar comparison trials run.
We formed partnerships with breeders, gaining exclusive access to over 60% of all DPI-registered varieties in Australia, and have been working tirelessly to prove the efficacy of mainland industrial cannabis production.
Historically speaking, farming in Tasmania has generally been home to high-value, high-yielding commodities due to its excellent growing conditions, abundant water and few pests or diseases. When it comes to producing industrial hemp crops, proven European or Canadian cultivars are used to maximise returns for first-time or experienced growers.
The industry has seen major hemp third-party producers and processors shift their supply chains to Tasmania, primarily due to the fact that mainland hemp production was not able to meet immediate demand and crops produced in Victoria using international cultivars failed.
Despite all this, and a first-mover advantage, Tasmania is limited by only having one growing season. This creates a huge opportunity for mainland Australian farmers as they can offer multiple planting windows and lower logistical expenses.
Whilst mainland hemp production has the ability to produce both fibre and grain all year round, it presented unique challenges that had to be overcome.
These include a diverse mixture of climates, lack of viable genetics, contamination from pests travelling from neighbouring crops, viable crop rotations and re-writing the knowledge book on sowing windows and trigger points for flowering females.
Despite these challenges, mainland Australia possessed many opportunities. Its diverse climate allowed for the production of multiple crops per year. As most major processors were also located in mainland Australia, this presented logistical advantages. These opportunities motivated us to stay in Queensland and continue striving to create a domestic supply chain.
From 2013, we worked tirelessly with our breeders and agronomists to prove that mainland Australia was a viable alternative for processors who sourced their grain from Tasmania. Tasmania provided them with a proven supply chain, but the logistics and lack of multiple growing windows was far from ideal.
In order to convince these processors to change their supply, first we had to prove the viability of growing industrial cannabis in mainland Australia. This was a complicated process as the harsher climate, and lack of sophisticated varieties, presented many challenges.
Working with our breeders and agronomists, we experimented with different regions, varieties and growing practices until at last consistent, commercially viable yields were achieved.
We are now in a position to distribute both seed and agronomical advice to mainland growers knowing that if they follow our advice, they will achieve commercially viable yields.
With this consistency, processors can now be confident that mainland Australia represents a viable and cost-effective alternative to Tasmania for the supply of industrial cannabis grain.
It has taken many years, but we are thrilled to be able to stand behind both our varieties and growing practices, knowing that we have assisted the creation of a sustainable domestic industry.