Green light for SA hemp processor

High hopes for Bordertown hemp food production

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GOOD OIL: Good Country Hemp managing director Mick Andersen has converted his warehouse to a hemp processing facility, and has already processed two batches of hemp oil used for cooking.

GOOD OIL: Good Country Hemp managing director Mick Andersen has converted his warehouse to a hemp processing facility, and has already processed two batches of hemp oil used for cooking.

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The state's first industrial hemp processing facility is up and running in Bordertown, with hemp oil from Good Country Hemp bound for health food stores and supermarkets within weeks.

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The state's first industrial hemp processing facility is up and running in Bordertown, with hemp oil from Good Country Hemp bound for health food stores and supermarkets within weeks.

RELATED: Good Country Hemp on track for first SA harvest

RELATED: First SA industrial hemp harvest underway

For the past nine months, Good County Hemp managing director Mick Andersen - an agricultural engineer by trade - has been busy converting his warehouse to a food grade plant.

The shed now has a drying plant to dry seed after harvest, along with a cold press to extract oil.

The cold press has already run two batches, extracting about 300 kilograms of oil for every tonne of seed.

The hulling machine, imported from Germany, will be operational in the next few weeks.

The aim is to produce four main food products - hemp seed oil, hulled hemp seed, protein meal and hemp flour.

The population of vegans and vegetarians is growing and they are looking for alternative protein sources and hemp is one of the best plant-based. - Mick Andersen, Good Country Hemp

Nutritional hemp has been grown for close to 20 years in France and Canada and Mr Andersen sees a big future for it in Australia too, being a great source of protein and rich in omega three fatty acids.

"The population of vegans and vegetarians is growing and they are looking for alternative protein sources and hemp is one of the best plant-based," he said.

"The health food market is growing at about 20 per cent a year."

Hulled hemp seed is about 35pc protein and the protein meal produced from crushing the oil is about 50pc, Mr Andersen said.

Being a parochial South Australian, Mr Andersen says his first focus will be the local market, but also developing a website for online sales.

"I want to do everything we can here, paddock to plate," he said.

"So far, there is no end to demand, even though we haven't sold any product, we have customers lined up keen to get our product."

In the 2018-19 season, Good Country Hemp contracted five farmers to grow 84 hectares.

In 2019-20, the company plans to step that up significantly, looking to contract 300ha of irrigated land across the mid and Upper South East.

These crops will be sown in mid to late November with harvest in March.

"You need good quality underground water and this region is very good for that," Mr Andersen said.

"Hemp grows best on well-drained soils so around the Coonawarra region and up here in the Tatiara is ideal."

Mr Andersen believes his new facility will be capable of processing 1000t a year - a level he hopes to reach within five years.

"We will gradually build up to that," he said.

"The first thing that will probably happen is we will run out of storage space with three processing lines in the shed so we will look at a new shed and also some cold storage."

Price rise to pique SA grower interest

Good Country Hemp managing director Mick Andersen admits the first year of industrial hemp in SA was a "learning experience", with variable yields among his contracted growers.

"Some growers did quite well and we learnt a lot along the way, both the growers and myself," he said.

"There is a lot (of work) in ground preparation and getting the crop off to a good start and then you have to keep the water up to it."

But Mr Andersen remains confident growers can achieve at least one tonne a hectare off the header and up to 1.4t/ha for an "exceptional crop".

To entice growers, he has increased his contract price from $3.50 a kilogram to $4/kg for the coming season and is also offering a free agronomy service.

Good Country Hemp has contracted agronomist Scott Leighton, who has considerable experience working with hemp growers in Tas, to share his knowledge here in SA.

"We want to give farmers the full support of agronomy and give them every chance of being successful," he said.

Good Country Hemp is in the process of importing certified seed from France and Canada for sowing this season, including lower stature varieties CRS1 and CFX2, which have been bred for their higher seed yields.

"In our second year, we are aiming for serious growers with more than 10 hectares who can have successful crops and from there, others will see it as a good option," he said.

"I have no doubt it will become mainstream - it is just a matter of time."

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