What is hemp?

Hemp is Cannabis, so both industrial hemp (iHemp) and marijuana are from the same family, just different varieties. 

In New Zealand cannabis is illegal, except iHemp which can be grown legally if you have a current licence issued by Ministry of Health.  

iHemp is hemp with a THC content less than 0.35%.  Nearly all countries in the world allow industrial hemp and a growing number of countries allow medicinal cannabis and recreational cannabis with higher THC contents.

Hemptastic New Zealand - Hemp

Hemp is a herbaceous annual plant that produces a nut and is related to hops, it produces leaf, roots, seed and the stems are split into fibre and hurd/shiv.

Click to enlarge

It can grow to maturity in 90-120 days and produces a seed, fibre or dual (both) crop.  It requires little if any pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and can actually clean and condition the soil.

The hemp plant is Cannabis Sativa, belonging to the family Cannabaceae of the nettle order (Urticales) 

There are many varieties depending on use and are mainly dioecious (distinct male and female plants) but can be monoecious (male and female on the same plant) 

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Why hemp?

Hemp produces high quality seed and the strongest most durable, longest lasting natural soft-fiber in the world.  

The high yielding annual crop can be used for a diverse range of end uses, in the food, construction, fuel & oil, plastic & composite, paper, textile and medical industries.

It can be grown sustainable and the carbohydrates can replace hydrocarbons as an industry feed stock.

Hemp fibre is UV resistant, anti-fungerial , anti-bacterial, ant- static and anti-microbial, the seeds are super food and useful industrial oil

For farmers is is great in rotation and requires less agricultural inputs than other crops and can compliment other natural fibre, flax , kenaf and pine and wool.

It can phytoremediate soils, cleaning polluted lands and conditioning compacted soils.

Significant quantities can be grown in a short  90-140 day growing season and it is the worlds premier, renewable natural resource.

A true good news story, good for industry good for business and good for the environment.



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Growing iHemp

Hemp grows in 90-140 days depending on the end use, For fibre the harvest date is earlier as you do not want the seed to develop, requires minimal if any agri chemicals 

Pollen drift from low THC industrial hemp crops will reduce the potency of any marijunna growing in the area and pollen can drift across the Mediterranean. By growing iHemp we are helping the police control illicit outdoor cannabis crops.

Seed crops are harvested once seed has set which takes a little longer, (harvested in March and April)  recreational and medicinal crops are harvested before seed set and any male plants need to be controlled.

It grows best in well prepared lose soils and does not like wet feet.

Ideal in rotation, hemp is planted October/November and left in the ground until February/march depending on your latitude within in New Zealand.

Irrigation tends to improve yield, but as long as it gets sufficient water at the right times, it can survive on minimal water.

Minimal pest problems have been noticed in New Zealand and the crop requires little if any pesticides, fungicides or herbicides

Please note in New Zealand you need a licence to grow industrial hemp, liceneces are obtained from Medicines Control, Ministry of Health 

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Information on hemp products

In New Zealand hemp products can only be made from industrial hemp
(iHemp) and under our regulations anybody is permitted to possess, use and trade in hemp products and stalks of industrial hemp as long as those stalks are without leaves.

Therefore currently you need a licence to work with hemp seeds, but not the stems or any product derived from the seed.  Derived products made from iHemp are legal as they have no THC in them and are no longer part of a viable plant.  So at that point hemp products do not need to be controlled as a drug.

Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 (SR 2006/163)

 S4 Interpretations. 

cannabis means Cannabis sativa

hemp means cannabis plant, seed, or fruit

hemp product means a product of a kind that is derived, in whole or in part, from industrial hemp

industrial hemp means hemp in the form of—

(a) plants with a THC content that is—

(i) generally below 0.35%; and

(ii) is not above 0.5%; or

(b) seeds harvested from plants of that

“If all fossil fuels and their derivatives (coal, oil, natural gas, synthetic fibres and petro-chemicals) as well as the deforestation of trees for paper and agriculture (e.g Brazilian and Indonesian rain forests), are banned from use in order to save the planet, preserve the ozone layer and reverse the greenhouse effect with its global warming trend; then there is only one known renewable natural resource able to provide all of the following goods and essentials such as paper, textiles, meet all the world’s energy needs and clean the atmosphere – all at the same time – our old stand-by that did it before: Cannabis hemp… marijuana!”  Jack Herer 1990 



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What are cannabiniods?

Hemp flower with seeds showing

Cannabinoids are the therapeutic compounds found in cannabis leaf and flowers, the most well know cannabinoid is THC, which is a psychoactive drug.

There are more than 80 cannabinoids, including CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG etc which are non-psychoactive and have various therapeutic effects, which are being studied for medical use.

In 1964 THC was isolated by Israel doctor, Dr Raphael Mechoulam and by 1970 it was determined to be the only major psychoactive component.  

Since 1964 more than 400 separate compounds have been isolated in cannabis and many more are still being discovered.

Cannabinoids react with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, these receptors have only just been discovered along with the entire endocannabinoid system which exists naturally in all humans.

It seems we are just getting started on understanding these cannabiniods and the endocannabinoid system and the natural symbiotic relationship between us and this plant.

The other compounds include minerials, terpenes and flavonoids – Natuer’s biological response modifiers, all of which have medical and nutritional uses.

See links 

Cannabinoid Facts: THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, THCV, CBG and Other Unique Phyto Cannabinoids




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Manufacturing and processing steps required

EX the farm

Working with retted and unretted fibre hurd/shiv, leaf, roots and seed.

Seed – perfect to eat as a snack ask the birds.  It comes with its own container that stores and transports well.  But the seed is a “Class C” drug,  you can only possess them if you have a licence. So you have to derive a product from the controlled seed.  Pressing for oil is a growing market and provides a lovely nutritional  oil, taking the husk off, leaves a hemp meal which is a super food, byproducts get made in to protein powder and flour.  Or you could make milk and ice creams and other juices and therapeutic preparations, (both topical and digestible) from the seed.

Fibre – comes from the stems which are normally retted, with the dew for a time or in a silage pit. The vision is to have a on-site machine where a farmer or group of locals can process there own green stems and prepare the raw materials which they can sell separately, gaining from this vertical integrated step.

Understanding how the fibre is to be used will define how crops are cultivated, harvested, stored/prepared in the future.

In this case fibre represents two distinct products, which create dust and waste in their production.  Spiting the stems into fiber and the inner woody pith (hurd/shiv) is called decortication.  

The Popular Mechanics magazine article in 1938  “New Billion Dollar Crop” starred hemp and was, a recognition of a German inventor who had developed a mobile decorticator that processed green stems on the farm, producing 1 tonne of hurd/shiv per hour which supplied the paper industry .

He had been promoting the revolutionary mechanical process for a previous manual job since first convincing some paper experts in 1917 of the economic sense and benefit of an annual crop rather than chopping down old growth forests.

When the US banned marijuuna in 1937 that was the end of the hemp industry in US, prohibition has meant only limited work has been done on improving the processing of stems, and fibre in to higher value raw materials and other end products.

Some companies in various countries largely European are making parts of the production chain and it is being successful combined into million dollar operations.


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Stems – fibre and hurd/shiv

Hemp fibre is naturally anti bacterial, antifungerial, anti static and anti-microbial,  As a textile it can stop 95% of the UV light, it is light and comfortable on the skin.  “Clothes that wear in not out”.  The fibre makes up about 20% of the dry weight of the stems and is made up of long and short bast fibres.

IMG_4248The fibre has various grades, which have traditionally been made in to textiles and specialty papers.  It is often used to make high value filters, as a geo-textile in roading and agricultural products, carpet backing, rope, caulking, fibre plaster, 

In recent times its use in the automotive industry as a composite material has increased demand.  And who would have thought of 3D printing in the 90’s but this to can use hemp fiber.  Making graphene,  fuel cells and semiconductors are other useful applications being developed.

Hemp produces the strongest, most durable, long lasting natural fibre known to man.  These fibres can be made into twine, rope, fabrics and fine quality fabrics

Fibre types

The hurd/shiv comes from the inner woody pith of the stems and is high in cellulose, the building block of plastics, it is commonly used as stable bedding as it is highly absorbent and naturally anti bacterial with a low dust content.

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