The rich volcanic soils of the Atherton Tablelands look set to launch the beginnings of a new agricultural industry, potentially worth millions.
Agricultural company, Trimpex International, has secured licences from Biosecurity Queensland to grow industrial hemp and carry out research, from its headquarters, the Trimpex Agri-Medical Precinct, in the Tolga Industrial Estate,near Atherton.
Director Shane Garozzo said the “soft” climate on the Atherton Tablelands was ideal for growing industrial hemp.
“We have more than enough water to provide irrigation,” Mr Garozzo said.
“The soil and climate is soft, there is nothing harsh, but in areas that are harsh our breeding facility aims to grow breeds suitable for various climates and environments.”
Mr Garozzo and local farmer Joe Trimarchi were initially looking at medicinal cannabis, which is currently awaiting the development of federal government regulations. Industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis are both members of the Cannabis sativa species.
“In the interim we found an enormous amount of interest in industrial hemp globally,” Mr Garozzo said.
“There is a lot of industrial hemp imported from overseas, some of which fails to meet market specifications due to quality and quantity.”
Trimpex expects to plant the first crop next week.
Mr Garozzo said local landholders and others in southern Queensland had shown interest.
“We’ve had huge interest from landholders on the Atherton Tablelands and Mareeba, along with enormous interest from large landholders on the Queensland/NSW border, from Cunnamulla to the Gold Coast,” Mr Garozzo said.
He said Trimpex had approval to grow up to 88 hectares of industrial hemp and could apply to amend the location where the crop is grown.
Mr Garozzo said the product would be put through a local stockfeed mill and the company was exploring opportunities for products in the animal husbandry industry.
“We hope this provides a proper platform for a new industry,” Mr Garozzo said. The research licence allows the company to import genetics under federal authorisation.
“We are looking for things like oil quality, seed density and the quality of the inner herb,” Mr Garozzo said. “We’ve also entered an association with the Central Queensland University which will help with rapid assessment technology and genetics.”
Mr Garozzo said it was hoped the agri-medical precinct could eventually commercially produce other products using medicinal type plants imported into Australia.