James Blundell cultivates new career through university-led industrial hemp program

Country singer James Blundell launched the Australian Industrial Hemp Program of Research (AIHPR) project with Southern Cross University.


Country music star James Blundell has won ten Golden Guitar awards at the Tamworth Country Music Awards and was the first Australian country act to sign a major label recording deal in Nashville. Last week, though, his focus was on a new research program at Southern Cross University (SCU).

The Australian Industrial Hemp Program of Research (AIHPR) project started on 31 May 2023 but officially launched last week with Mr Blundell’s support, with the news that the initiative has received a $2.5 million funding commitment from AgriFutures Australia over five years, until its proposed completion date in 2028.

To reflect his growing interest in industrial hemp production, the singer, songwriter, and storyteller now also lists ‘hemp farmer’  on his website and is growing hemp on his property as part of a national industrial hemp trial led by SCU. He says he’s excited to be at the grassroots of an industry with such enormous potential.

“Industrial hemp is expected to be a $10 million industry in Australia by 2026 and with the help of the AIHPR it won’t stop there,” he says.

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The future of industrial hemp is growing

Lead researcher, Professor Tobias Kretzschmar says the AIHPR will involve a range of research organisations and industry partners as cultivation of hemp – an industry that has shed most of its stigma – is undertaken on an industrial scale.

“The focus areas include securing a steady supply of well-characterised varieties, developing value-add processing methods, investigating the safe and beneficial use of hemp products in livestock and animal feed, and generating information and tools for growers to understand the sustainability credentials of industrial hemp,” he says.

Hemp, and its seeds, are a valuable commodity in a number of ways: food-wise, it’s a rich source of essential Omega fatty acids and contains high amounts of protein. It also produces high-quality fibres that can be made into fabric for clothing, replace single-use plastics, and be used in building materials, such as hempcrete.

Professor Mary Spongberg, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Integrity) says SCU is thrilled to support the strong growth and innovation of the fledgling hemp industry in Australia.

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“The program with AgriFutures will bring together expertise from the University’s Harvest to Health Research Cluster with industrial hemp growers, processors and agronomists, broadening our knowledge about hemp cultivation and processing and use in Australia,” she says.

“The program will allow us to better understand the impact of hemp on our environment and enhance production across Australia and is an opportunity to work in partnership with industry and other researchers, transferring and sharing knowledge to build a better hemp industry and a better environment.”

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