AgriFutures Australia's Emerging Industries Program is investing $2.5 million over five years to deliver game-changing research into four key areas: hemp seeds and varieties, hemp primary production, hemp products and hemp sustainability.
Officially launched at Southern Cross University, the Australian Industrial Hemp Program of Research (AIHPR) was guided by the Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan and developed in close consultation with industrial hemp growers, processors, agronomists and researchers.
The AIHPR will be led by Southern Cross University, which has more than 15 years' experience in industrial hemp research.
Southern Cross University lead researcher Professor Tobias Kretzschmar said the AIHPR will involve a range of other research organisations and industry partners to provide research solutions to address the industry's key barriers to growth.
"The focus areas include securing a steady supply of well-characterised varieties, developing value-add processing methods, investigating the safe and beneficial use of hemp products in livestock and animal feed and generating information and tools for growers to understand the sustainability credentials of industrial hemp," Professor Kretzschmar said.
Hemp seeds are a rich source of essential Omega fatty acids and contain high amounts of protein.
Hemp also produces high-quality fibres that can be made into fabric for clothing, replace single-use plastics and be used in building materials such as hempcrete.
AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Senior Manager Dr Olivia Reynolds said hemp had enormous potential to boost Australia's agricultural productivity.
"The Australian industrial hemp industry is in its infancy but is rapidly growing, and the timing is perfect to plan and implement a pathway for growth," Dr Reynolds said.
Hemp grower and Australian country music star James Blundell, who farms at Stanthorpe, Qld, said he was excited to be at the grassroots of an industry with such enormous potential.
"Industrial hemp is expected to be a $10 million industry in Australia by 2026 and with the help of the AIHPR it won't stop there," Mr Blundell said.
Mr Blundell's property is one of nine locations where a range of industrial hemp varieties have been trialled as part of the AgriFutures Australia national Industrial Hemp Variety Trials.
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