A Taranaki-based medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp venture is part of a group that will investigate ways to turn hemp seed hulls, which there is little or no market for currently, into high-value products destined for the global export market.
Greenfern Industries is part of a partnership awarded $145,000 in cash and in-kind funding for research into products created from the by-products of hemp seed oil processing.
Greenfern will work alongside industry partners Callaghan Innovation and Hemp Connect as part of the project funded by the Bioresource Processing Alliance (BPA), which, in turn, is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. BPA invests in research and development projects with the aim of generating additional export revenue for New Zealand by working with the primary sector to get better value out of biological by-products.
Greenfern’s industrial hemp is currently grown in Central Otago and Taranaki and the company has plans to expand hemp seed farming to double its crops this year.
Greenfern has already teamed up with Sustainable Foods and the Riddet Institute research centre for the opportunity to turn hemp seeds into food products such as plant-based meat-substitutes and cosmetic products. The meat substitute has recently been trialled at Tank Juice Stores in Auckland, where the product sold out and received plenty of positive feedback.
“We have plans underway for rapid expansion, so we’re keen to find added value opportunities for the by-products of hemp seed processing,” said Greenfern managing director Dan Casey.
Hemp product suppliers Hemp Connect has an agreement with Greenfern to share their capabilities in cold-pressing hemp oil from Greenfern’s hemp seeds as part of the research process.
Previously whole hemp seeds were cold pressed for hemp seed oil (as the main product) and hemp seed cake remained as the by-product with a high fibre content but not a particularly pleasant taste.
Now, Greenfern and its partners will see how they can use the entire hemp seed at a time when there is increasing interest in hemp heart (dehulled seed) that means a higher amount of hemp hull gets generated every year. Currently, the by-products of hemp oil processing are hemp cake and hull. The hull is difficult to sell so previously it has been stockpiled.
The project will look at ways to convert a significant volume of hemp hulls and other parts of the seed into higher value products such as antioxidants, oil, protein peptide supplements, and water-soluble hemp protein for beverages of the future that are attractive to both the New Zealand and global food and nutraceutical markets.
“As well as creating new products for export, there is an opportunity to work on new or improved ways of processing, improving yields, and reducing waste. Given our commitment to sustainability, we’re naturally really excited to be part of this research and development project,” Casey said.
As part of the project, Greenfern Industries and Hemp Connect will provide the hemp seed, staffing, and marketing experience to work out production methods required to manufacture products and will explore new market opportunities and sales channels in New Zealand and Australia.