Q&A: Rural innovators lead the way with hemp

This week we chat to James Hood, Co-Founder alongside Charles Mann of Australian Primary Hemp, an innovative new business that is working to take advantage of Australia’s demand for the newly-legalised hemp industry. James and Charles have known each other since they were six years old, growing up on sheep farms in Victoria’s Western District. The pair set out to produce a bioavailable protein, initially researching the idea of farming crickets, but later turning their attention to growing hemp given its high level of plant protein and its numerous health benefits.

ISB: Your original plan was to farm crickets but you ended up farming hemp – please tells us what was behind that shift.

JH: My original plan was always to find an alternative protein away from the traditional sources we had previously farmed, when the discussion around cannabis arose it clearly made more sense than reinventing the wheel for crickets; as low THC hemp cultivation and harvest are complementary to our existing cropping infrastructure and fits in to more alternate diets (kosher, halal, vegan, veg.. etc.). It is a better protein and there are thousands of additional uses for the plant…not to mention the positives for the environment!

ISB: What were the biggest challenges in getting Australian Primary Hemp off the ground?

JH: As with any new business there is often a number of question marks around funding, Charlie and I certainly were not looking at going into this half-hearted, there was a massive gap in the market for Australian grown hemp products and fortunately family and Charlie’s other ventures were in a position to assist with some of the rather large initial

costs.

ISB: How difficult was it to convince did you convince friends and family involved in the business to back your decision to import premium hemp hulling equipment from Europe?

JH: There were more questions around the legality of growing cannabis rather than the opportunity to establish a viable business.

ISB: And what did that bold move mean for the growth and development of the business?

JH: Once we paid the deposit on the dehulling line, we had really just made the jump from idea to serious execution. There was no second guessing the success of the business and we were full steam ahead to fulfilling our desire to become the leading cannabis company in the country.

ISB: Where do you see the business developing in the next couple of years?

JH: There are numerous low-hanging fruits presenting themselves to us derived from the plant, while we are primarily a food company we would be mad not to be keeping an eye on these opportunities.

ISB: Finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your start-up journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

JH: Back yourself! Everyone seems to have an opinion on what you are doing when you are starting out – if you listened to all of them you’d likely never get out of bed.

More times than I would care to remember people laughed when told that we grow hemp for food, often accompanied by “what do you do, roll it up and smoke it?” and “it’ll never work”.

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