Klara Marosszeky has a vision for the future that involves
revamping of the local farming industry to produce industrial
hemp crops. Working with farmers, she has just harvested her
first commercial crop of industrial hemp and is looking for
innovators who want to utilise the product.
Industrial hemp has a low-THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)
content and produces the longest, strongest plant fibres in
the world. It is used in many countries in the manufacture of
plastics, fiberglass, fabrics, food and building materials.
“In the UK, a major car manufacturer, Lotus,
is making whole cars out of hemp,” Klara said. “Everything
but the engine is hemp. Henry Ford would be grinning in his
Klara currently teaches sustainability courses at TAFE
and envisions hemp as the solution to many of the sustainability
issues that are affecting Australia today. Not only is she trying
to create a hemp industry in NSW and open the way to using hemp
seed as a food product, but she is out to make housing materials
affordable. After looking around for alternative products to
replace our current dependence on timber, Klara spent years
experimenting with hemp masonry as a building material, with
very successful results. Two years ago, she was a finalist for
the Northern Rivers Regional Development Board’s innovation
award for her hemp masonry.
Hemp building projects, farming fibre and the carbon
A lot seems to have happened in the Australian hemp industry
in the past year, with more states starting to offer better
support to farmers wanting to grow industrial hemp for fibre
at least. DPI in NSW has worked out how to administer the farming
regulations and the industry is ready for expansion.
NSW has three Industrial Hemp Associations, one based in Sydney,
one out at Ashford and one in the Northern Rivers. It’s
not clear yet how many of these members are farmers or manufacturers
and how many are retailers or importing products. There’s
talk of forming a national body, so we’ll get an understanding
of the actual farming figures which will be a crucial measure
of how much real progress has been made in creating an Australian
We’re edging closer to hemp housing materials being easily
available as well. To me it feels like slow motion, as the lack
of a steady supply of hemp is still holding up hemp homes being
built. There’s been work done on processing and on bulking
up seed in several parts of the state this year and hopefully
that and the newly launched Carbon Farming Initiative will create
more interest from farmers.
BCA Compliance for hemp homes
In terms of consolidating the building materials research that
I undertook at UNSW, Certification under the Building Code of
Australia has now been finalised both for the building method
and the material. With the availability of a slow trickle of
fibre, two homes have been built in this area, another is underway
at Bateman’s Bay and one has just been approved by Eurobodalla
Council. The certification for the Building Code will make it
much easier for people to get hemp housing approved.
Lismore Council approved the Billen Cliffs home based on the
research from UNSW and supplementary documentation, but not
all councils have been so amenable. There is still a real shortage
of knowledge out there about hemp buildings and their benefits.
How the Carbon Farming Initiative will relate to hemp
The Carbon Farming Initiative is independent of the Carbon Price
or Carbon Tax which right-wing politicians are threatening to
dismantle, has the support of both of the major parties and
there are three markets for carbon trading. Of these the non-Kyoto
and voluntary markets are where hemp will be able to claim credits.
As hemp isn’t a permanent crop it’s not eligible
for carbon credits in the same way that trees are. However it’s
biomass has a net positive effect on soil organic carbon. The
process of working out methodology for measurement is currently
being looked at with the Office of Carbon Policy.
Early markets for voluntary carbon credits are in Japan and
China. Neither country has enough arable land mass to revegetate
and produce food to balance their current carbon debt. We’re
fortunate enough that we do and carbon farming has the potential
to provide substantial revenue and employment for Australians.