A halting hemp industry

Despite an indifferent construction sector, a small West Australian company manufacturing building products out of industrial hemp is determined to push on. 

Margaret River husband and wife duo Gary Rogers and Georgina Wilkinson are producing hemp walls and insulation which are fire-proof, thermoregulating and have the ability to sequester carbon. 

“Until Gary and Georgina Wilkinson set that processing facility up, there was nothing going on,” says David Chick, executive secretary of Industrial Hemp Western Australia Association Inc.

“It’s a big deal to get set up for processing,” he says. 

“The majority of those other construction businesses are importing the stuff.”

Mr Chick says the industrial hemp industry has been struggling within Australia because of red tape, a lack of support and the cost of local production. 

“But importing it from somewhere else doesn’t make any sense. We’ve got all this land and we’ve got an agricultural sector that needs another crop,” he says.

Hemp Farms Australia’s co-founder and COO Lauchlan Grout says there are a number of issues across the industry which are affecting businesses like Hemp Homes Australia.

“Money does answer a lot of problems,” he says. 

“Currently, there are a lot of unknowns in this field and they haven’t become known yet because no one has invested the capital required to figure it all out.”

Lauchlan Grout says Australia is behind in terms of adopting “green” building materials. Image: Greg McFerran.

He says the supply chain needs to be completely aligned and the product thoroughly tried and tested before any great progress within the Australian building industry can get underway. 

“You really need to serve it up on a silver platter for them to even consider it,” he says.

“There’s too many issues along the whole supply chain to make it a completely confident venture.”

Hemp Farms Australia founder and COO Lauchlan Grout

Co-founder of Hemp Homes Australia Georgina Wilkinson says they are still waiting on big companies to get on board.

“We’re going to get our fibre certified by the end of the year, and then we just need all the big companies to work with us.” 

“It’s regulated, it can be used but big companies aren’t interested, which is a big thing.”

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