Seeds sown for world's first hemp industrial base

LAURA RICHARDS
Last updated 05:01 20/08/2013
Greg Flavall.
Fairfax NZ
HEMPING IT UP: New Zealand hemp advocate Greg Flavall stands in a field of hemp overseas showing how tall the plant can grow.

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Hemp Technologies' Gregory Flavall, based in Taranaki, would like to see the world's first hemp industrial village located in his home province.

Originally from Stratford, Flavall has brought his knowledge and expertise of the hemp industry to Taranaki from the United States and the United Kingdom where he learned first-hand about processing hemp for a variety of uses.

With the tag line of ''Food, Fuel, Shelter, Jobs – Hemp is Now!,'' Flavall said Hemp Technologies would like to help farmers in Taranaki realise better income and employ people to process hemp.

''Maize growers are looking for alternatives because maize beats the crap out of the earth while hemp does not. Hemp is a replenishing plant for the earth, like lucerne or alfalfa as we call it. It re-nitrogenises the soil after harvest, and it's good at aerating soil, and is a break crop for other crops.''

During the 2012-2013 growing season in Taranaki, there were a few farmers in Taranaki who grew 4.45 hectares of hemp and he would like to see more farmers growing hemp in the 2013-2014 season.

''Last year, we grew 11 acres (4.45ha) and this year we will grow 100 acres (40.46ha) from the seed we grew last year.''

Flavall would like to just as quickly leap forward to growing almost 81hantsG hectaresnte to substantiate the building of a processing facility.

''I am pre-emptive,'' he said. ''We're going to be releasing shortly the first development of its kind in the world — the Taranaki Hemp Industrial Village.

''It's a self-sustaining and self-generating industrial village for everything relating to hemp — everything will be results and sales driven. It will run on the co-operative business model.''

The plan would see a facility, costing $500,000 to build, that could produce pressed oil, protein and flour. It would produce fibre insulation, along with material for animal bedding, garden mulch and fibre for paper making.

''Hemp is the only plant in the world that will feed, provide fuel, house and shelter. We will create something close to 1000 new jobs here,'' Mr Flavall said.

''My plan is to grow this from 100 acres (40.46ha) to 250 acres (101ha) as 250 acres will then justify two shifts working in the processing facility,'' he said.

A hemp straw decorticator will do 2.5 tonnes per hour and it would be in the facility that the raw straw is processed into fibre, bio-mass and building material.

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While in the beginning there will not be textile fibre produced, Flavall said the company would need to breed ''proper'' seeds over the next few years.

''No country is producing anything near the textile quality that China can. But they are fast running out of fibre and they are trying to get some processing off the ground in Canada where they are growing 65,000 acres (26,304ha) of hemp this year because they want the raw fibre to process into textiles and sell to the United States.

''They are screaming out for it, and if we can come anywhere's close to that then we will have a good export market,'' he said.

Over the past 18 months, Mr Flavall said he had witnessed the willingness of people to help with not only the growing of hemp on their properties, like John Earney of Avonstour Organic Rare Breeds Farm, but also those in other businesses — from seed cleaners to engineers.

Mr Earney told Fairfax Media, ''Greg is the driving force behind this''.

''I grew one acre of hemp last year and we're putting the whole of the seeds produced into 15 acres this year,'' Mr Earney said.

The plants during last summer's growing season ntsGand no rain during the droughtnte reached nearly eight feet (2.44m) tall, Mr Earney said.

The license that he has applied for and obtained will cover his entire farm and Earney has already planned where he will be planting and growing hemp on his farm this year.

He liked that the plants are not heavy on the earth and replenish the soil. Flavall said it had only been five years since he was introduced to hemp through a friend who wrote a thesis on the plant. He got excited after reading the thesis and decided to find out as much about hemp as he could.

''Two weeks later I was on a plane to England and hooked up with a company over there that was building with hemp.''

From there, he went back to the United States and then he travelled back to Taranaki two years ago, ''because in New Zealand it is legal to grow hemp''.

- Stuff

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