We met with Georgia Branch, co-founder of Hemple, who takes us through the highs (and lows) of Hemp, the miraculous plant that is changing the landscape of health, wellbeing, and environment globally – and the effect it could have on the future of Australia.
Tell us more about what Hemple is, and how it came to be?
Hemple is a 100% Australian-owned company, that grows functional hemp foods. We call our foods functional because we’ve created our products based on health goals for our customers.
Hemple came about through a shared interest between business partners, having had a long standing interest in hemp as a sustainable (and delicious) food source – to support the world’s growing population. We were those people eating hemp seeds, before they were legalised for consumer consumption in Australia – even though the packaging told us to only use them as a home-made body scrub (shhh don’t tell!).
Our view is that we live in a world where excess animal protein consumption isn’t viable – hemp is a nutritious alternative that gram for gram has more protein than beef, plus a huge number of additional uses.
When it looked like hemp foods would eventually become legal in Australia a couple of years ago – we jumped at the opportunity to work directly with local farmers and start our own brand.
And how about hemp? Can you tell us a little bit more about the plant?
Getting high is what’s it’s most well known for! THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is hemp key component responsible for the most well-known recreational effects, and is found in resins in the flower (bud) of the plant. This is just one aspect of the plant, but it also plays host to a whole plethora of individual and social benefits that far proceed its reputation. Some of these are;
There’s another cannabinoid in hemp which is being researched at the moment called CBD (Cannabidiol). It has no psychoactive effects (i.e. won’t get you high) and is showing a huge amount of promise in managing epilepsy, anxiety and other ailments.
Housing & clothing:
From a fibre perspective, hemp can be used for clothing and building materials – even plastics. BMW is currently using hemp plastics in car manufacturing, which is incredibly exciting.
At Hemple right now, we’re working with the hemp seed. This nutritionally dense seed is a perfect food for humans. Why? It’s high in plant based protein, omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids and fibre, as well as a number of micronutrients including magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, chlorophyll and vitamin B1.
How does hemp weigh up to alternatives, especially the impact it has on the environment?
It doesn’t take much of a toll on the planet to grow hemp. Hemp has some natural resistance to pests and grows best with a controlled water flow. It can require some irrigation and fertiliser in the soil, but even when conventionally farmed requires virtually pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or insecticides.
This makes hemp a compelling crop for organic farming, which is something we’re working very hard on at Hemple, right here in Australia. We expect to release the first ever organic Aussie hemp foods later in 2018 – and we’re pumped!
I did mention irrigation – from a water use perspective, hemp uses about 1/3 of the water needed to grow almonds.
As a fibre for fabrics, hemp is much more durable than cotton and less water and pesticide intensive. The Stockholm Environment Institute analyzed the UK production of cotton vs. hemp and found that one grow used an estimated 10,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, compared to about 300-500 litres of water to produce 1kg of dry hemp matter, of which 30% can be used for fibre production.
Hemp, or cannabis sativa, is the only plant that can feed you, house you, clothe you, heal you, and get you high. It is one of the most incredible and controversial plants on earth.
Hemp has taken so long to be made legal for consumption in Australia. Tell us more about this…
That’s right, people around the world have been eating hemp foods for years.
Low-THC hemp seed products were legalised for consumption in Australia in April 2017, with the legislation coming into effect about 6 months later in November 2017. Before that date, hemp fell under a classification that prohibited all species of cannabis from being added to food, or sold as a food.
That’s why you might have seen food grade hemp seed products with an over-stick on the nutritional information panel saying it was a body scrub.
Why the wait? Without getting too deep into the politics, the conversation had been going on for years, however previous attempts to legalise hemp foods were rejected due to concerns that people who ate them could register positive for THC (the cannabinoid that gets you high) in a roadside drug test.
In reality, there’s no risk of this for people eating hemp food products. Every batch is tested and confirmed low-THC before it hits shelves.
What do you think the ‘ahh-hah’ moment will be for mainstream consumers to start switching to hemp-based products?
I think most people would agree that the most important thing we have is health – our own health, our friends and family’s health, and the earth’s.
When you find out that hemp is one of the most nutritionally complete, health-promoting food sources on the planet, you say… ‘ok, I’ll give it a go.’ You try it, find out it’s nutty, buttery and delicious, and start feeling the difference in your own body.
You then learn it’s not only healthy, but sustainable, and eco friendly – you then become more and more conscious of it’s advantages. And that the benefits of hemp go way beyond food. Then you want to share it with others.
Which countries are utilising hemp to make a positive impact on the environment around them? How can Australia learn from this?
The French are the front-runners in hemp-seed production, accounting for a huge 59 percent of the global total. France goes beyond hemp seed and also produces most of Europe’s hemp pulp and paper. It’s the most important hemp market in the EU, accounting for over 50 percent of fibre applications, reducing logging and deforestation.
In Australia the industry is in its infancy – there’s so much to learn from the Canadians and French about growing hemp as a food, the French for hemp pulp and paper, and the Chinese on hemp fabrics.
What’s next in the conversation surrounding hemp products?
The big one will be CBD or cannabidiol. That’s the cannabinoid I mentioned previously, that’s non-psychoactive), but is seeing some positive results in clinical studies of patients with epilepsy, auto-immune disorders, insomnia, anxiety and more. There’s more research to be done but loads of potential without known side effects.
What has been hemp’s most positive moment in the limelight to date?
Scientists planted the hemp plant at Chernobyl and found that hemp conducted phytoremediation and removed chemicals, toxins and radioactive material from the soil better than any other plant.
Want to learn more about Hemple? Check them out at hemple.com or follow Hemple on Instagram.