New Zealand initiative to study potential of hempseed hulls

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A group of New Zealand-based companies will launch a project to explore the potential for turning hulls and other parts of the hemp seed into a wide range of applications in the food and nutraceutical sectors.

Funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the initiative is a cooperative effort among Greenfern Industries, Taranaki, NZ, a medical cannabis and industrial hemp company; Hemp Connect, a vertically integrated hemp operator based in Wellington; and Callaghan Innovation, a research and development firm.

The project is under the Ministry’s Bioresource Processing Alliance (BPA), which invests in research and development projects with the aim of generating export revenue from biological by-products.

The partnership was awarded NZ$145,000 in cash and in-kind funding for research into the possibilities of using hulls and other waste from oil processing in such products as antioxidants, oil, protein peptide supplements, and water-soluble hemp protein for beverages.

Development opportunity

“As well as creating new products for export, there is an opportunity to work on new or improved ways of processing, improving yields, and reducing waste,” Greenfern Managing Director Dan Casey said of the joint initiative.

Greenfern Industries and Hemp Connect will provide the hemp seed and work out production methods, and the three partners will together explore market opportunities in New Zealand and Australia as commercial opportunities develop.

Whole hemp seeds are pressed for hemp seed oil, a primary product. What’s left over is hemp seed “cake” – mixed biomass, proteins and other leftovers including hulls. While the resulting mix is high in fiber content, it has an unpleasant taste and producers have found it difficult to sell.

Stockpiling hemp hull

Greenfern said growing demand for hemp nuts or “hearts” – shelled hemp seeds – means a growing volume of such bio-waste is generated. Many producers have been stockpiling hull material, the company noted.

Greenfern already works with The Sustainable Food Co., Auckland, and the Riddet Institute, a food research center, on a hempseed project focused on plant-based meat substitutes and cosmetics. The company, which grows hemp in Central Otago and Taranaki, said it will double its hemp crops this year.

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