Helping hand for hemp

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AgriFutures Rural Women's Award finalist Sophie Dwyer in a hemp crop at Manjimup.
Camera IconAgriFutures Rural Women's Award finalist Sophie Dwyer in a hemp crop at Manjimup. Credit: Dwyer, Sophie Dwyer

Sophie Dwyer hopes to give WA’s fledging hemp industry a boost by creating an in-depth business plan exploring marketing and processing opportunities.

Ms Dwyer is one of four WA women short-listed for the AgriFuture’s Rural Women’s Award $10,000 prize, set to be announced next Wednesday at Government House.

Based in Perth, Ms Dwyer said her interest in hemp was sparked when she joined the board of Food, Fibre and Land International Group as a non-executive director last year.

Ms Dwyer said she hoped to use the $10,000 bursary to create a business plan exploring the potential for hemp seed growing and manufacturing in WA.

“I really want to know how we can increase existing consumers and broaden the entire consumers’ engagement with hemp seed,” she said.

“Hemp seed is a nutritious food containing all essential amino acids to maintain health, it is rich in healthy oils including Omega 3 and 6.

“The small seed has a pleasant nutty taste complementing a broad range of food styles and flavours.”

Ms Dwyer said she planned to investigate capital investment, potential for online and direct sales, and regional processing opportunities.

Food, Fibre and Land International plans to harvest its first 40ha hemp trial at Manjimup next month.

Seed, the head and the stalk will be harvested with the seed used to replant a proposed 900ha site at Manjimup next year.

FFLI chairman Tony Adcock said the edible seed of the fast-growing crop had big potential in WA, with most seed currently imported from overseas.

“We believe it is a profitable industry but we are trying to grow it on scale, as a broadacre crop,” he said.

“You can use the head and seed for food, the stalk for the building industry and the roots for aromatherapy.

“Sophie was interested in the nutritional aspects of hemp seed and hemp in general, so when we invited her onto the board she was very keen to research the nutritional aspects.”

Ms Dwyer said processing and marketing the seed for human consumption was the fastest way for hemp to gain traction in WA.

“It is valuable and it doesn’t require a lot of processing ... you crack the shell and then the seed is inside,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Meanwhile, we can continue to grow the industry for the processing of fibres ... the seed processing is minimal and we already have a market in WA.”

She also believed hemp could provide an alternative and valuable break crop for farmers.

Ms Dwyer also serves as a non-executive and executive director for several private entities, and serves on the boards of the Small Business Development Corporation and Greyhounds WA.

She completed a Bachelor of Science (horticulture) at University WA and an MBA at Curtin and works as a financial consultant.

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