In 2019, 77 licences were issued to grow hemp in Ireland. That figure was at just eight just four years previous. According to Chris Allen – executive director of Hemp Federation Ireland – that figure is set to soar this year.

On Thursday, March 12, anyone interested in growing the crop has the opportunity to attend the Hemp Federation Ireland Conference which is being run in conjunction with the National Organic Training Skillnet.

Changes to regulations mean that a licence to grow the crop can be applied for at any time during the year.

So farmers could actually attend the conference, get some information, decide if they want to grow the crop on their land, apply for a licence and have seed in the ground by May.

The conference which is entitled simply “Growing hemp in Ireland” has a jam-packed schedule of speakers. Some of whom are outlined below.

The conference brings together experts in the area

Among the speakers is Marcus McCabe. Marcus has been growing hemp in Ireland for 25 years and also processes 85% of all hemp grown in Ireland. He has been involved in the retrofitting and building of hemp houses.

Marcus will give an agricultural masterclass on growing the novel crop and offer some agronomic advice.

A really interesting speaker will be Dr. Jace Calloway. Jace comes from Finland and was involved in the breeding of the variety Finola which the majority of Irish farmers grow at present.

The variety according to Chris has “transformed the hemp industry across the world”. It is much shorter than other varieties and this makes it easier to manage on farm if the grower does not have specific machinery for managing the crop.

Keynote speaker

Professor Peter Thorne who is the lead author on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports published in 2018 and 2019 will deliver the keynote address.

He will speak about the transitions that farmers need to make and the supports that farmers need to make those transitions.

The crop which is a member of the cannabis family of plants offers valuable help to the environment through the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the development of biodiversity.

Co-ops in Greece and Ireland

An organic co-operative from Greece will describe Government policies in their country and how they went about developing a market for their products. Ed Hanbidge will also speak about his experiences in Hemp Co-Operative Ireland.

The story of hemp in Germany

Stefan Nolker will tell the important story of the hemp industry in Germany over the past 20 years and how it developed from the beginning when there was no supply chain. The Irish industry may be able to relate to this story.

Regulations in Ireland

Chris Allen – the executive director of Hemp Federation Ireland – will finish off the conference with a focus on the regulation of Ireland’s industry in the context of EU and global barriers.

A host of other speakers will feature on the day. Registration information and a timetable for the day can be found here

The conference takes place in the Tullamore Court Hotel on Thursday, March 12, and begins at 9:30am.