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Friday 03 December 2021

Hemp Connect gets “game-changing” $245k MPI backing

18th November 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

Manawatu commercial hemp business Hemp Connect has received $245,000 of backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries to support the development of an internationally competitive hemp seed processing plant.

Hemp Connect has a retail brand but is also building up its business as a food ingredient supplier.

The two-year pilot aimed to enable locally grown hemp food products to compete with imported varieties, with the investment going into equipment and research in an effort to unlock processing efficiencies and reduce costs.

The ministry, which made the investment through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, said establishing such a facility would be a “game-changer” for the local hemp industry, which currently struggles to compete with imports varieties.

Since 2020, Levin-based Hemp Connect has been working on creative solutions for processing New Zealand grown hemp more efficiently and reducing production costs.

“One of the keys to reducing costs has been researching how to use the entire seed, as well as the associated waste streams,” Hemp Connect managing director Mathew Johnson said.

“Our goal with this project is to make hemp food production in New Zealand a viable and internationally competitive option.”

Hemp Connect was currently upgrading its new Levin factory where it manufactured hemp seed oils, hearts and powder blends for its eponymous retail brand and for Sven Baker’s Good Farmers retail brand. It was also building up its commercial ingredient business supplying hemp ingredients to food manufacturers including Venerdi.

Johnson said traditionally, the cost of importing hemp food has been significantly cheaper than producing it locally.

“By increasing the scale of production, new product developments such as husk by-products, hemp sprouts and animal feed will become more economically viable,” he said.

“We’ve been working tirelessly to modify our existing equipment and have researched equipment from all over the world to find ways of getting the most out of every hemp seed.

“Kiwis are incredible thinkers when it comes to innovation, particularly in the food and beverage industry. We have loved working with so many people, including our new staff, engineers, electricians and pneumatic specialists, to apply our number 8 wire and problem-solving skills to an industry that has been around for centuries, but without the New Zealand touch.”

He added that the partnership with MPI provided Hemp Connect the opportunity to prove its concept at a larger scale.

MPI’s director of investment programmes, Mathew Johnson, said the project fitted within the Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential roadmap, which included strengthening the environmental credentials of food and fibre products, and driving further growth in the value of New Zealand products.

“Hemp doesn’t need chemicals and is drought tolerant, so it has environmental benefits,” he said.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this project will be enabling Hemp Connect to develop products that have never been produced domestically or internationally.”



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