The hemp industry is long regarded as "the industry that never took off". Across the country there are big plans being hatched for hemp crops and their products: from food and fibre, to medicine and building products and beyond.
Despite being two seasons since growing hemp crops for food was made legal in New Zealand, what’s behind reports that it’s still not smooth sailing for everyone that wants to take part in this emerging market. That’s what the latest research by Webtools Ltd. seeks to find out.
As an innovation partner and custom software development company for the agriculture sector, Webtools' research looked under the hood of the industry to understand the place for increased transparency in the hemp supply chain by applying technological developments and emerging digital tools to help this home-grown industry scale and succeed.
Lead Researcher Jemma Penelope and Webtools Agriculture Lead Melissa Baer worked closely with the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association and the members of the Hemp Industry Liaison Group convened with Government Ministry Officials, interviewing New Zealanders across the hemp supply chain – from researchers and breeders, growers and seed merchants, to retailers and product innovators. Accompanied by extensive online market research covering legislation developments, industry opinion, small business activity and media reporting, this market and stakeholder research has been released by Webtools today, in this report.
With a vision to build the robust, sustainable long term solutions required, Webtools’ report establishes a foundational understanding of just where the whirlpools and rough waters of this emerging industry can actually be found. The project required specialist research to understand the supply chain of hemp production in New Zealand currently, and how all of hemp’s diverse stakeholders are experiencing the industry from their perspective.
So, is there a room for improvement in New Zealand’s nascent hemp industry? The answer is yes.
“The potential for hemp as a crop for New Zealand has been widely discussed and advocated but it’s still a clunky industry to get into, and many who want to start growing hemp are finding it unclear how to get started” says Melissa Baer, who heads up the Webtools Agritech team. It's a similar sentiment held by those selling hemp products, they’d like to be able to tell the New Zealand hemp story much better than they are able to currently.
The question is, how does New Zealand make the most out of this potential while avoiding the pitfalls other countries are experiencing?
Hemp and cannabis are distinctly different crops, under different regulations and government ministries, yet there is a surprising lack of understanding and information among both consumers and aspiring industry entrants about the specifics of growing hemp versus growing cannabis.
“Our report illustrates why hemp is indeed a complex product posing challenges across law, agronomy, ecology - yet equally has great innovations and exciting opportunities for new products in fabrics, plant proteins, skincare, nutraceuticals and wellness products and even building products and product packaging. And with the start of the medicinal cannabis scheme in April this year, many people are interested in how these two industries might interact and co-exist and the nature of the relationship between the two. There’s a whole range of possibilities to consider here.” Says Jemma Penelope, Webtools Agritech lead researcher.
This research shows hemp is an excellent example of the pivotal role transparency can have in the future of all New Zealand agricultural crops that need to remain competitive on the world stage, and the value that can be realised when consumers and producers alike can access more information about what is being grown and sold. Webtools Agriculture is specifically focused on the power of technology to embed transparency into agricultural supply chains in a way that lets emerging markets scale as strong and more sustainable markets.
Hemp is a crop with real potential for the New Zealand agricultural industry, but there is a way to go before these gains can be realised. The next step for Webtools is to build the solutions to the challenges their latest research describes.