Growing industrial hemp for the application of hemp fibres into locally made construction materials for both domestic and export markets could unlock both financial and environmental benefits for Taranaki and Aotearoa.
Globally, the industrial hemp industry is rapidly developing - driven by deregulation in recent years and also by growing interest in, and demand for, its use in a range of products, including construction materials such as fibreboard, insulation, fibreglass substitutes, cement, stucco and mortar, carpets, geotextiles and bioplastics (amongst other end uses of fibre).
A 2021 report commissioned by MPI suggests that a New Zealand hemp export industry, driven largely by fibre-based (as opposed to food or medicinals-based) products, has the potential to be a $25 million export industry by 2030 if New Zealand were to win just 0.1% of market share.
The ability to create innovative new products will be a key success factor, given we can’t product hemp at the scale of some other countries. Taranaki has a longstanding track record of excellence in engineering and innovation – a capability which could pivot to the development of materials for export, as well as hemp processing equipment.
The NZ building and construction sector, responsible for a fifth of our emissions and is currently in the midst of the largest construction boom in decades, offers a real opportunity for hemp growers, processors, innovators, and manufacturers to contributes towards the New Zealand Government's goal of halving our emissions by the year 2030.
With many other inherent qualities, hemp construction materials also have the potential to play a significant role in reducing the emissions profile of new builds in NZ – with many hemp builds being carbon negative.
Hemp is ideally suited as a complementary or rotation crop for pastoral farmers, fitting well with climatic and soil attributes of Taranaki and offering conditioning benefits to soil quality, as well as opportunities for co-products from hemp seed if dual-cropping.
Branching Out Blueprint Hemp Fibre for Construction, the opportunity for Taranaki
This blueprint provides an overview for commercial production and processing of hemp fibre for construction in Taranaki, and an indication of potential returns.
A new pātaka kai was built as part of a hempcrete demonstration at the Marfell Community Garden. The hemp pātaka kai replaces an existing storeroom that is used to store produce grown in the garden as well as food donations.
Hemp fibre for construction event
Venture Taranaki held an event for the construction industry highlighting the role the material could play as we move towards a more sustainable future. There was significant focus on the development of value-added products and how the existing knowledge and expertise in Taranaki could leverage this opportunity.
At the event, construction industry players, architects, and property developers heard from experts who expanded on the benefits of using hemp fibre as a carbon-neutral building material, the practicalities and challenges, the opportunity for value-added construction products, what is needed to enable a Taranaki hemp fibre industry and how interested parties can get involved. You can find the contact details for the speakers and their presentations below.
Jo Say, property developer and founder of the Hemp Building Association of New Zealand - She is also in the process of establishing New Zealand’s first hempcrete village on her land in central Nelson.
Dave Jordan, CEO of Hemp NZ and brand HempFarm NZ Ltd.
Matt Low - is a Civil Engineer and hemp house owner. He was first introduced to hemp as a building material when he and his wife started out building their home back in 2013 in Taranaki. This became one of the first group of consented hemp houses in New Zealand.
Joel Van Riel & Lochlan Urquhart, founders of Erkhart Construction - The Wānaka-based company has a strong focus on sustainability and energy efficiency, particularly specialising in hempcrete builds.
Richard Barge, Chairperson of the Hemp Industries Association Incorporated - He is also a certified chartered accountant and a passionate advocate for the emerging hemp industry and the role it will have in the future global economy.
Hemp Construction Product Development
Following the Branching Out with Hemp Construction event, there has been significant community interest in the development of construction-related products utilising this sustainable material.
Venture Taranaki identified an opportunity with Massey and Canterbury Universities and called for the Taranaki construction industry to submit expressions of interest to receive product development/prototype support and expertise, for the chance to receive:
- Prototype development equivalent to a $40,000-$100,000 development effort.
- Up to 1000 hours of student work.
- Up to 30 hours of academic staff supervision.
- Up to 80 hours of technician time.
- Use of software, fabrication, measurement, testing facilities, and specialist equipment.
- IP ownership.
A number of companies submitted proposals, detailing potential products requiring R&D including fibre-cement mixes, prefabricated hemp fibre panels, composite boards and insulation materials, all with strong merit.
Congratulations to Panelise who was selected and we look forward to seeing your progress.
We're now looking at how we can further support the other applicants with their product and ambitious prototype ideas to help take them to the next level.