Hemp: The Most Complete Food Source On The Planet

Prior to 2017, hemp foods were illegal in Australia. Now, hemp is being touted as one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods on the planet.

As we've covered previously, hemp has been quite literally woven into human history. Whether it be in the form of hemp ropes, hemp uniforms for soldiers, or that the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, hemp has been integral to society up until very recently.

Despite having no psychoactive effects, hemp's proximity to marijuana saw hemp become entangled in Nixon's War on Drugs, prompting governments around the world to ban all components of cannabis; hemp, marijuana, and all.

Now, as hemp and its derivatives become increasingly legal throughout the world – with over 30 countries now producing industrial hemp – society is beginning to understand the immense benefits that hemp use can provide.

Here are some of the ways that hemp could be revolutionary moving forward.

Cultivating Hemp

To truly understand the benefits of hemp, we must first look at how the plant is cultivated.

One of the greatest attributes of hemp is how easily it may be cultivated when compared with many other crops, particularly as it pertains to regenerative farming.

Regenerative farming is defined as the "application of techniques which seek to restore landscape function and deliver outcomes that include sustainable production, an improved natural resource base, healthy nutrient cycling, increased biodiversity and resilience to change."

Hemp lends itself to a regenerative farming approach more than most crops for several reasons, such as the fact that hemp absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and for every tonne of hemp produced, 1.63 tonnes of carbon is removed from the air. Hemp is also considered to have powerful phytoremediation effects, meaning that the plant can decontaminate soil pollution due to the presence of heavy metals.

Additionally, hemp produces more fiber per hectare than any other source, and at least twice as much as cotton. For example, four acres of trees produce the same amount of cellulose fiber as a single acre of hemp. Whereas corn yields about 4 tons of dry biomass per acre, hemp can yield up to 6 or 7 tons.

And if all of that wasn't enough, hemp is also naturally resistant to insect predators, so farmers can minimize their use of pesticides and the harmful emissions that come along with them.

As environmental concerns continue to rise, and more citizens label climate change as their number one concern, hemp presents a very unique opportunity to be a regenerative, environmentally-friendly crop.

Hemp as a Superfood

Not only is hemp preferable to grow compared with many other crops, but perhaps even more interestingly, hemp seed is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

Hemp seed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), as well as two essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Additionally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in hemp seed oil is normally between 2:1 and 3:1, which is considered to be optimal for human health. One tablespoon of hemp seed oil provides more than the daily EFA requirements suggested by the FDA.

Hemp seed contains approximately 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, comparable to most meat and fish. Hemp seed is an easily digestible protein and is also a 'complete protein source' as it contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body cannot manufacture itself and needs from food, as well as iron and vitamin E.

And, just as hemp presents a perfect crop amid the growing climate crisis, hemp as a plant-based food may capitalize on the current decline in meat and dairy consumption.

Per capita, beef consumption dropped by roughly a third since the peak in the 1970s. Comparatively, plant-based meat sales rose by 31% in grocery stores alone in the past two years.

Moreover, surveys have shown that nearly two-thirds of respondents in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. agree with reducing meat consumption to reduce the toll on the climate.

As such, hemp and hemp-derived foods are not only nutrient-dense and the most "complete food source" on the planet, but hemp also intersects with environmentalism and the increasing desire for plant-based foods.

ECS Botanics
Source: ECS Botanics' latest presentation

ECS Botanics (ASX:ECS)

Here in Australia, one of the key players in the hemp and hemp-food space is ECS Botanics (ASX:ECS), which was founded in Tasmania in 2018 by Alex Keach.

Born out of Mr. Keach's agricultural expertise, and his interest in the plentiful benefits of hemp plants, Keach propelled ECS to obtain the full set of licenses needed to cultivate, supply, and manufacture industrial hemp in Tasmania, and by the end of 2019, ECS had also been given a growers license in Queensland, along with import and export licenses from the Australian Office of Drug Control (ODC).

To date, ECS has completed two successful hemp harvests in Tasmania, utilizing the natural conditions of Tassie which are very favorable to hemp cultivation, while also setting up a deal with Just Foods for distribution into Woolworths for ECS's hemp seed oil and hemp soup range.

The anecdotal evidence for medicinal cannabis, and the magnitude of opportunities and benefits hemp offers cannot be ignored. Alex Keach, CEO and Co-founder of ECS Botanics

The Woolworths deal placed ECS's hemp-food products in over 850 Woolworths stores.

Tasmania's favourable conditions, such as being low risk, cool climate, an abundance of UV, non-GMO status, a lack of pests, and optimal weather, all combine to make Tasmania the perfect climate for growing cannabis and hemp, allowing ECS to produce its crops outdoors and avoid many of the additional costs that come along with indoor growing.

Hemp is a versatile and powerful material and food source, and as hemp continues to grow in popularity, alongside the growing climate and plant-based movements, ECS Botanics will be at the epicenter of the action.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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