It's a great start to 2021 for dairy farmers.
The team planted 10ha of hemp, the equivalent of 10 rugby fields, at its 850ha Darfield Farm in Canterbury, next to its Darfield processing plant.
The unique, cutting-edge trial to see how hemp grows under dairy wastewater irrigation is the first of its kind in New Zealand and likely a world first too.
It turns out that it grows very well and the pilot has been a huge success. The hemp improved profitability and productivity, while reducing the co-op’s environmental footprint.
Fonterra’s regional farm operations manager, Steve Veix, says the dry, hot Canterbury summers make it challenging to find the ideal crop to grow on-farm, which traditionally grows pasture.
“We were approached by the local Carrfields Limited team to trial planting hemp and after some research of our own, we went for it.
“From there we took advice from the team at Carrfields, given the newness of the crop in New Zealand.”
Whilst hemp looks like cannabis, it does not contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana.
Fonterra says its team found that hemp crop has many benefits: it is quick to establish, grows well, requires minimal fertiliser, is water efficient and soaks up nutrients so reduces potential leaching.
The fibre, grain and seed harvested from the hemp crop will now go on to be used in products such as flour and oil.
Veix says the success of the trial means the team at the farm are now considering increased areas across a couple of South Island farms for the coming season.
“This trial is just one of the many innovations Fonterra is doing as we try to be a more sustainable dairy producer.”