Towards the end of 2017, the ANZ Food Standards Code had the addition of a ground-breaking item. For the first time, hemp seeds with low-THC have arrived at our shores. About two decades since hemp-based products were introduced for industrial purposes in Australia, the benefits of hemp as a source of nutritious food was finally realised. Australians can ultimately reap the health, environmental and financial benefits of the presence of a local food industry for hemp-based produce. Australians now have a first taste of what has made hemp seeds a global phenomenon that is wildly popular in Japan, Canada and Germany. Hemp-based products are now part of a movement that has amassed for itself a $4 billion industry. Hemp seeds alone globally make up a $1 billion industry and have been eaten for thousands of years by civilisations all over the world. What entered the market in Australia in the form of textiles, paper and concrete formula, could now also be available as protein powder, seeds and oil. For the health conscious Aussie, hemp seeds are gluten-free, paleo diet-friendly and are non-GMO.

Hemp Seeds in Australia

Many Australian startups have popped up in response and have spent years before the change in the law, in testing and cultivating varieties of hemp seed types that are safe for farming. Most of them aim to create an Australia-based supply chain which need not rely on importers. Supplying seeds is one of the most critical functions for a plant-based industry such as hemp. For farmers in Australia, bringing hemp into their farms during a crop rotation can boost the health of the farm soil. The rich fibres from the hemp crop is an important reason why hemp seeds aid digestion. But beyond helping us, the fibre in the hemp crop also improve nutrition in the soil. Additionally, the fact that hemp can be grown in a variety of temperatures is an attractive prospect for a large nation such as Australia. Hemp crop is sown by farmers to ultimately convert to food products such as hemp seeds and oils. The resilience of the hemp crop allows farmers to cultivate without using poisonous pesticides. Even from ancient times, the hemp crop has been preferred because it is an all-year crop which can be grown in any season. A key feature of the hemp crop that can make a lot of financial sense for Australian farmers is that land use is limited as hemp can grow in tightly crowded spaces. Hemp is a rapidly growing crop as well, meaning farm productivity for hemp farmers could be high.

How Can I Grow Hemp Seeds?

For farmers who are interested in growing hemp seeds, getting involved in the crop is easy. Most hemp seed growers receive a lot of support from hemp seed startups. To increase involvement, hemp farmers are offered contracts by retailers, for the hemp seed they produce. By involving themselves with these startups, farmers in Australia have access to a significant amount of expertise. By being provided with industry advice from agricultural experts and financial consultants, farmers can ensure that they get a fair price for their crop. For hemp growers in Australia, there is sufficient support to guide new entrants through every stage of the licensing process. By assigning the paddocks they want to grow hemp away from main roads, farmers can ease their licensing needs. By making police and health records available to licensing agencies, they will be able to take a faster decision. You may also be required to provide a business plan for why you are looking to cultivate hemp in your property. Additionally, by ensuring that their farms do not border any schools or public spaces, the licensing process will not be raising any obstacles. Farmers in Australia need a license issued from their state as it is a criminal offence in Australia to grow hemp without approval. For Victorian residents, the applications have to go through the Agriculture Victoria office. Essentially, a Grower License allows farmers to own cannabis seeds that are pre-certified, trade their cannabis seeds with other licensed farmers and cultivate the hemp crop in a paddock of their choosing. Mostly, a license lasts for three years before it needs to be renewed. If a farmer wants to add more paddock areas for hemp cultivation, then the license will need to be amended.

Hemp Seeds and Health

Hemp seeds are a protein-rich source of plant-based foods. With a crispy exterior that is rich in fibre and soft insides, hemp seeds have a mildly nutty flavour. In essence, it could be said that hemp seeds are the nut or the fruit of the hemp crop. As a variety of Cannabis Sativa plants, hemp is now widely-used in popular drinks such as milk and beer. A large number of Aussies who prefer to source their food from vegetarian-friendly sources will be pleased to know that there are high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids from hemp-based food. It is to preserve these fatty acids and natural fibres that hemp seeds are often cooked at very low temperatures or just eaten outright. The presence of beneficial fatty acids and sufficient fibre make hemp seeds an active ingredient in the diets of people with a desire for a healthy heart. Over 45% of hemp seed is made of omega fatty acids. A high-functioning heart requires the right amount of essential fatty acids. In this way, hemp seeds are in the same line of products that made flax seeds, linseeds and chia seeds so famous across the planet. Unlike those other seeds, however, hemp seeds are low in carbohydrates, making these seeds an essential part of a low-fat diet. For individuals that suffer from frequent hormonal imbalances, hemp seeds contain a particular acid called the Gamma-Linolenic. Hemp seeds also represent a natural alternative for people that have nut allergies to enjoy the same benefits of healthy oils and good fats in hemp seeds. The fact that nearly 35% of hemp seed is protein, it is an excellent choice for people that have adopted a meat-free lifestyle. Hemp seeds don’t stop there – they are also a massive source of minerals like zinc, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, copper magnesium and iron. From a nutritional standpoint, the fibre content and protein in hemp seeds gives a feeling of being full and can aid in weight loss in this manner.

Hemp and the Environment

The ability of hemp to cleanse the soil allows farmers to cultivate traditional food crops as soon as they are done harvesting their hemp crop. The incredible skill was displayed after the horrific nuclear disaster that happened in Chernobyl, Ukraine a few decades ago. The plant was used on the site of the nuclear fallout in order to cleanse the soil by sucking up harmful poisons. Combined with the fact that the hemp crop requires much lesser water than other traditional farming crops, it seems that the introduction of the hemp crop will be a boost to the environment in Australia. Environmentalists will be delighted to know that hemp pulp is a viable alternative for paper production, to wood pulp. In fact, the Declaration of Independence of the United States is written on paper made from hemp pulp. By the outright adoption of hemp pulp for paper production, we can save a countless number of trees from logging.

Hemp Seeds: The Basic Ingredient

Beyond being a nutritious supplement in itself, hemp seeds are the primary ingredient for a range of food products that are termed hemp seed foods. Hemp seeds can be crushed into hemp oil, cold-pressed into beverages, converted into flour or even extracted into protein powder for gym bunnies! Essentially, hemp seed is the critical component of a range of hemp-based food products that could be a crucial part of Aussie diets.

The primary distinction between the hemp variety and other forms of cannabis strains is that the hemp crop cannot psychologically alter users. Despite coming from the same species of cannabis, the way they are cultivated mean that hemp contains no ‘psychoactive’ substances.  To put it simply, hemp is just like every other crop out there and not to be mistaken for hemp’s slightly more notorious cousins. Notwithstanding the lack of therapeutic qualities, hemp seeds do contain protein, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins A, C and E. Only a marginal amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that gives cannabis its mind-altering elements, is present in hemp if any. In fact, researchers at the Swinburne University of Technology estimate that it is highly unlikely that you can fail a drugs test by consuming too many hemp seeds! For the hemp seeds varieties currently made available for cultivation in Australia, only types that have low-THC content are permitted.  

All over the world, demand is growing for hemp as an efficient source of building materials, biofuel, textile and paper. Now Australians can enjoy an added benefit of hemp – as a source of nutritious food. So there’s nothing more to wait for! Get your first taste of hemp seeds by sprinkling some over your salad dressing, add some seeds to your muesli bar or blend a smoothie with a few seeds. Consider sprinkling some hemp seeds over the bread you are baking or even over your breakfast cereal in the morning!