Hemp process starts in Margaret River

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerAugusta Margaret River Times
Forest Grove-based hemp farmer Steve Thomas.
Camera IconForest Grove-based hemp farmer Steve Thomas. Credit: Taelor Pelusey

Commercial processing of WA-grown hemp seed kicked off in Margaret River this week, providing a major shot in the arm for the fledgling industry.

Forest Grove hemp farmer Steve Thomas and his business partner Peter Munachen imported various machinery from China during the year, and after fine tuning and commissioning last week, started processing Mr Thomas’ own crop in recent days.

There is separate equipment to clean, sort and de-hull seed, the latter creating nutritious hemp hearts which are rich in essential nutrients like fibre, protein and omega 3.

Mr Thomas said there was also separate hemp oil pressing equipment, all operating under the business name Hemp Processors WA.

Until now, WA’s hemp growers have been processing seed manually in small volumes in their own kitchens, or paying hefty freight charges to send their crops to processors in the Eastern States.

Mr Thomas, a WA Hemp Growers’ Co-operative member, said the equipment would be available on contract to other growers, which should drive further growth in the industry.

“Until now there has been the challenge that there is no local processing capability,” he said.

“Our current equipment is of a scale that could now process all the hemp grown in WA.

“If production continues to grow and we need more equipment or bigger equipment, then we’ll get a hold of that too.”

He said Hemp Processors WA would next year source equipment to treat the hemp stalks, which were rich in fibre and cellulose. In late 2017, changes to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Code permitted the sale of food products derived from hemp seed with a THC content of up to one per cent.

Since then, WA hemp growing licences, with hemp licences have doubled. There were more than 70 commercial crops and seven hemp research plot trials this season, using 22 hemp varieties.

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