1. How do I get a licence to grow hemp?
Need to apply to the HPRA(if you are a member of the Co-op we will help to guide you through the process)
2. What sort of yield can you expect per acre?
- 2.5ton for fibre varieties
- 500kg for seed varieties
- 500kg flowers (dry)
3. What pH soil is suitable?
Generally grows best above 6.5 pH
4. What profit can you expect per acre with current legislation?
- Fibre €0
Seed €100 – €300
5. What profit can you expect per acre if legislation were to be change to utilise the whole plant?
6. What equipment do you need for harvesting?
- Finger bar or Big disc mower
- Self propel with kemper head, 3 sets of knives in chopping block.
- Ranker or turner
- Seed dryer
- Seed cleaner
7. How do you separate the seeds/buds from the plant?
- Combine (seed)
- By hand (bud)
- Stripper (bud)
8. When is seed planted and when do you harvest?
- April, May sowing (after last frost if possible and ideally with light rain forecast)
- Aug, Sept, Oct harvest
9. Does hemp have to be grown away from main roads?
- Just can’t be seen from the road.
- If hedges, trees bushes are blocking visibility then it should be fine.
10. Do you require extra security to grow hemp?
No (HPRA encourage a lock on the entrance gate)
11. What are the figures for the absorption qualities of hemp bedding compared to others in use?
- 3 times more absorption
- 3 times more expensive
12. How much carbon does the plant take in?
10 tonnes of CO2 per ha
13. What is the expected life span of hempcrete?
14. What’s the best end use for hemp?
* Match the traits of the variety to suit the end product that you have a market for. *
- You grow hemp to suit the end use. What’s the purpose of this hemp? What’s it to be made into?
- If there is a market for fibre, then you grow the tallest and highest % fibre crop you can. If it’s a seed market, then grow a seed variety.
- Need to get a contract or an end user agreement, not only for the licence application but also for your own peace of mind.
15. Should I test my field before growing?
- Let’s see what we’re starting with. Do a full analysis, check for everything. When you send the sample away, tick all the boxes. All elements, minerals, heavy metals. It will be used as proof to show how hemp remediates the soil, removing toxins.
- Keep this in mind when you are thinking of food & wellness products. You don’t want to make those from a crop that’s just soaked up crap. For technical fibre, building, paper or biomass.
- Remember the cleaner that a producer receives your crop the more lightly they will purchase off you again.
16. How long does it take to grow?
Depends on the end use!
- For seed ~ 60 days
- For fibre ~ 60 days
- For leaf and flower ~ 90 days
The following is from an interview with an experienced hemp farmer.
1. How many years have you been growing hemp for and why did you start?
4 years growing it and I started to generate extra revenue.
2. Do you grow for fibre/seed/flower?
This year I am growing for seed and flower. No point growing for fibre without decorticator.
3. Where do you buy your seed and how much does it cost?
Bought from Finland and the cost was €11.50/kg.
4. Have you tried different approaches of sowing it (times/seed rate/fertiliser)?
Tried a few methods but the one that works best was using a seed drill to sow @ 5 inches apart and a one-pass machine and getting the seed down an inch. Have tried a grass seeder in the past and rolled after but if the weather is cold it’s not the best idea, plus the birds can get at it easier. Beet seeder can also be used. I am growing organically so have only used slurry at 100 units of Nitrogen per acre. I normally sow 10-14 kg of seed per acre but it can also depend on the end user.
5. What is the best machine for sowing it?
I think the seed drill/corn drill.
6. Which variety has yielded the best crops for you and what is your average yield?
Finola is the best value. It doesn’t grow that tall so you can use a conventional combine to harvest. It’s also quite high in cannabinoids which means you get a better price for per kg. Yield is about 2 tonne of wet material for flower per acre but dries down to 200-400 kg of material. For seed you will get 500kg per acre for organic farming but you can get up to 800kg if conventional.
7. What agronomic issues have you encountered over the years with growing/harvesting?
The biggest problem I see is getting the seed rate correct. If it’s too low then weeds will get a chance to grow before the crop gets established. Harvesting is always an issue as the crop is so strong. Anything that has rotary parts won’t work. Combine works fine but we have our own harvester for taking the flowers off but has its own mechanical issues as it’s a prototype.
8. What do you do with the finished product once harvested or what are the different options listed in order of decreasing value?
Flowers are very valuable and can yield from €1000 to €4000 per acre but a lot of work involved with the harvesting, drying and a much bigger risk as you are relying on the CBD content % being at least 1%. The easiest that I have found is to sow it, close the gate and come back with the combine and get the seed and its low risk. Seed is worth €1500/tonne so at half a tonne to the acre you making €750 an acre but €350 net profit when all your cost are taken into account like (seed/slurry/sowing/harvesting/drying). I use the seed to make an oil and its bottled and sold.
9. What changes would you like to see in the future of hemp in Ireland?
It would be good to have regulations eased so more seed varieties could be sown that could be higher in CBD%, laws should be changed to allow 0.3% THC but ideally 1% THC as we can grow crops much higher in CBD content then. Need to have a decorticator in Ireland so we can process the stalk.
10. What is the optimum amount of land for a farmer to sow in your opinion or what is the profitability per hectare?
I would say that if you are growing for seed you would want to grow 10 acres which will give you 5 tonne of seed which is €7,500 gross profit.
For flowers I would recommend an acre as a lot of work involved and 1 acre can be easily managed by 1 person and can be very profitable if done correctly to achieve a high % of CBD.
11. Where do you see hemp growing in Ireland in the future?
I think it will mainly be grown in the tillage as a break crop between peas, beans, lupins, oats, rapeseed etc as only takes 4 months max to grow and improve the yield of the following crop and help aerate the soil. The tillage guys have all the equipment too. If the laws allow the flowers to be used and different varieties be grown then they will be a niche market for smaller farmers. So probably will be grown all over Ireland eventually.
12. What road blocks do you see in the future?
Infrastructure, like processing units set up in the right place and money available to purchase them. The rules about the use of the flower will need to be ironed out eventually otherwise people won’t want to get involved in the growing of it. The legality of the THC levels and seed varieties need to be sorted out also to make it easier to make a profit. Very grey area at the minute and needs to be made black and white.
13. What advice would you give to a farmer starting out growing hemp?
Start small and get to know the plant and figure out how you will harvest/dry and process it. Get yourself an end user so you can make a profit.
14. Which machinery is best for harvesting and what ones have you tried?
Combine for the seed. Finger bar mower for the fibre. Stripper head for the flowers. Reaper binder didn’t work so well.
15. Have you tried growing it on different types of land ie. Boggy/hilly/wet/dry?
I have seen it grown in the bog this year but no idea of yield yet. It seems to grow well on sandy ground and hilly ground. I think anywhere you can get a machine in, it will grow ok. Tillage ground is the best as more fertile the ground the more profit you will make.
16. Do you think the government could do more to support hemp growing?
Yes of course they can. They have done nothing so far so any help at all would be good on the funding or the policy side. Help to promote and build the markets for hemp and advertise it.
17. What are the most frustrating aspects of the whole process or what would you like to see change?
Lack of help from the government and the policy’s need to be more black and white as they are pretty grey at the moment.
18. Do you make much profit overall when overheads are taken into account or do you make more than you did on beef or other crops?
€350 an acre profit from the seed is a lot more than I am getting from beef or from lamb.
When I grew for fibre, I got 17 bales per acre and they would be valued at €25 a bale so that €425 gross profit per acre so still making a bit of profit after costs are taking into account.
19. What would need to happen in your opinion to maximise profits?
Need to be able to grow the varieties that can produce up to 20% CBD as now we are restrictd to growing the varieties that can only produce 3-5% CBD. Need a decorticator too.
20. What do you think the future holds for hemp growing in Ireland and do you think it’s feasible to grow it here?
Very feasible to grow here and grows well in this climate. I would like to see us getting into the food producing side of it by using the seed and flower as Ireland is a great food producing country.