Photo: Geelong Advertiser
Shifting public perception
AFTER more than 20 years researching, developing and consulting with cannabis producers across the globe, Phil Warner is more than ready to see the public embrace hemp into their daily life.
The founder and managing director of Ecofibre, a hemp fibre company sporting one of the world’s most diverse cannabis germplasm collections said Australia is falling behind the rest of the world by ignoring the many opportunities hemp seed and fibre presents.
“The word ‘cannabis’ has been criminalised over the last 80 years, repeatedly and unjustifiably,” Phil said, adding the re-education process seemed never ending.
“For the last 20 years, it’s been enormously frustrating but the facts are very simple.”
Phil said the oncoming increase in disposable income would mean the potential to double consumption of everyday goods such as furniture and clothing.
“If we double the need for things, which is made out of stuff, what ‘stuff’ are we going to use?
“Nobody has a long term view on this planet. The one saving grace for this country is the research laws and capabilities of the independent research institutes.
“We can do things here by developing new technologies and applications but we don’t have any facilities to support the manufacturing of products.”
Phil has recently partnered with the University of Tasmania and is working closely with farmers in developing new hemp varieties.
“We are channelling money into this to improve the varieties specifically suited to Tasmania and, if we can get the yield up, it will make it more competitive on the global stage.
“For entities like Ecofibre, who have been spending money for the past 17 years to keep the crop happening, it’s a long stretch for us to do it by ourselves and then turn around and make it publicly available - we’re doing what the government should be doing.”
With many of Phil’s clients preferring Tasmanian-grown hemp, he said public perception was paramount to ensuring the industry gained traction.
“[Tasmania] wants to perpetuate and improve on the clean/green image which [it] provides for Australian production and that is key.”
“We have 30 farmers working with us at the moment in Tasmania and, the year before last, we planted 30 hectares, last year we did 100 hectares and, this year, we’re doing 300h.”
Phil said he hoped to be planting up to 1000h in the 2018-19 season which, depending on the variety, will run from November through to the harvest in March.
“We harvest oil and protein mainly. You can dehull it and have the kernel, like you would with peanuts or macadamias and eat that straight, or press the oil out of it and have it as a high quality protein.”
As guest speaker at the upcoming Earth Expo in Tasmania, Phil will focus on new technology and ongoing developments in the hemp fibre industry.
This includes a small display of his current US-based project ‘Hemp Black’, which processes sustainably farmed hemp hurd to produce a highly durable textile.
Phil said it was his hope that by encouraging the use of hemp seed, oil and fibre he could contribute to ‘a better, cleaner, healthier, happier world’.
For more information about Ecofibre, visit: www.ecofibre.com.au