The Premier Irish Industrial Hemp conference was attended by farmers, academics, government officials and business people. The event was organised by The Hemp Working Group, including Hemp organisations, Teagasc and IFA and took place in Teagasc Ashtown, Dublin, on Thursday 20 June.
Barry Caslin from Teagasc who opened the proceedings said: “There has been a huge interest from farmers and industry representatives in developing a hemp industry in Ireland. Many farmers are seeking land use alternatives, especially in light of the lack of income from the drystock sector which was highlighted in the recent Teagasc National Farm Survey report. Teagasc have been involved in hemp research since the 1960’s, and proved the crop can grow well in Irish soil and climatic conditions.”
The Keynote speaker at the Premier Irish Industrial Hemp conference was Paul Benhaim from a global hemp company Elixinol. Paul has pioneered the development of many products made from hemp. He told the conference; “After realising the health properties that come from the hemp plant, I collaborated with some of the world’s leading experts that have studied the integral role that the cannabinoids and terpenes within the hemp plant play, and decided to play an active role in this industry. Elixinol now trades on the Australian stock exchange and exports to over 40 countries globally. The global barriers to hemp are coming down rapidly and Ireland is very well positioned to capitalise on this and create its own global hemp brands. The United States Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, Legalising Hemp. Congress federally legalised hemp with the 2018 US Farm Bill, opening a market that is expected to reach $22 billion by 2022.”
Wicklow farmer Ed Hanbidge spoke about how he integrated hemp into his family farm in Baltinglass. Ed has farmed organically since 2015. He described the three main outputs from hemp as Cannabinoids used mainly to produce CBD extracts, fibre which can be used for insulation, bioplastics and biocomposite. The third use is hempseed which he supplies to Luke McGuinness from Irish Health Oils in County Meath.” The seed is harvested using conventional harvesting machinery set to the highest height. The straw fraction is then allowed to ret for a few days before being harvested and baled. Nothing goes to waste with hemp”. He called for the organic payment to be introduced for hemp crops and to provide infrastructural supports to develop the industry, either through TAMS initiatives, or Enterprise Ireland funding, to enable the processing of hemp in Ireland.
Laura Jane Foley from Loop Head, County Clare, who grows hemp on her farm together with husband Daniel, is offering contracts to farmers to grow hemp which they are processing. Laura called on government to embrace the industry by establishing a regulatory framework and encouraging research and innovation at agricultural, academic and pharmaceutical levels. Laura Jane Foley said: “Please acknowledge the need for a full-Irish supply chain to address the growing domestic and international consumer demand to establish Ireland as a global supplier. We need to allow differing hemp cultivators for production of cannabinoid rich crops and provide year-round hemp cultivation licenses through greenhouse operations. We also need to provide cultivators with dual-licenses to avoid “waste crop” and allow for full-plant utilization.”
Kaya O’Riordan, from CB1botanicals, spoke about the opportunity of using industrial hemp to produce bioplastics. “Hemp bioplastic degrades completely after 80 days. Industrial hemp is able to capture approximately 8.9 tonnes of CO2 per acre.
The equivalent cost for 1 million tonnes of CO2 sequestration from hemp is $20 million. Irish government has spent over €125 million on carbon credits since 2007.
Ireland expects to miss its EU 2020 Climate Package emissions target by 95%.
One acre of industrial hemp absorbs an average of 8.9 tonnes of CO2.
Additional CO2 sequestration may also occur from finished products such as HempCrete, hemp pellets and bioplastics.”
James De Melloe from deDanú worked in the Canadian cannabis and hemp industry since 2014. He and his wife Leah from Glasson Athlone are offering contracts to farmers to grow hemp which will be processed at their newly acquired laboratory in Monksland, Athlone into CBD oil. He discussed international market trends, industry challenges, business strategy and the opportunities available to Ireland in the cultivation, processing and manufacturing of hemp. “Ireland is a gateway to Europe, has globally competitive tax rates and research incentives and a highly educated workforce. This country CAN compete at an international level and is uniquely positioned to capture a significant portion of the global marketplace”
Teagasc crops researcher Dr John Finnan spoke about his passion for growing hemp and described it as a “vigorous crop that can generally out-compete weeds. This is particularly true of the taller varieties; however the Finola variety is slightly more vulnerable to weed competition. We have not used any herbicides, fungicides and pesticides on our research crops. As with all crops there is a nutritional requirement which can mainly be met through the application of organic manures.”
Dr Patrick O’Mahony from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland described the NOVEL food Directive and how it effects the production and sale of CBD oil in Ireland. “Generally speaking, hemp oil obtained by cold-pressing the seeds or other parts of the hemp plant, does not require authorisation. A novel food is a food, or food ingredient, that was not available on the EU market to a significant degree prior to May 15, 1997. If, however, the CBD/hemp oil is subjected to certain forms of extraction or purification techniques, then a novel food authorisation may be required, as there may be an accompanying increase in undesirable constituents. A typical example is hemp oil subjected to supercritical CO2extraction.”