Hemp success at Darfield farm


As one of the world's most controversial (and misunderstood) plants, hemp is good for a whole lot of things: shoes, clothing, paper, you name it. And now it’s proven to be a perfect crop for the Co-op.

It was grown at Fonterra’s Darfield farm as a first-of-its-kind trial to see how hemp grows under dairy wastewater irrigation. They’ve found it’s a profitable, resilient and nutrient-gobbling alternative to the usual pasture grown at the 850ha Darfield farm, located just out of Christchurch.

While Hemp looks like cannabis, it does not contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana.

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.

The team planted 10ha of hemp – the equivalent of 10 rugby fields.

It turns out that it grows very well, even in drought conditions, and the pilot has been a huge success. The hemp improved profitability and productivity while reducing our environmental footprint.

The team found that hemp crop has many benefits:

  • Quick to establish
  • It has vigorous growth
  • Requires minimal fertiliser and chemical input
  • Water-efficient
  • Soaks up nutrients so reduces potential leaching

Through the partnership with Carrfields Ltd, the hemp has been used in products such as flour and oil, tripling crop profits. 

It’s also reduced environmental impacts on-site, making the pilot a huge success. The team at the farm is currently considering increased areas across other 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.