We chat to Co-Founder of ECS Botanics Alex Keach about how he discovered hemp, his Tasmanian farming background and why he believes hemp has the power to change the world.
When did you discover Hemp?
I initially discovered hemp around 5 years ago through a dear friend of mine who was growing irrigated hemp on his farm in Tasmania. At that stage hemp was still illegal to be consumed as a food product, however, it could be used as a skin rub.
My interest grew in the cannabis space as I worked as a stockbroker and investor, my aim has always been to spot emerging trends and themes early, and with cannabis, the anecdotal evidence could not be ignored. Furthermore the consumer awareness and regulatory relaxation beginning globally indicated to me that we were on the cusp of supercycle investment opportunity.
This sent me on a journey of self-education and speaking to everyone and anyone about cannabis, but particularly hemp. In the leadup to the legalisation of hemp foods, we positioned ourselves accordingly to hit the ground running when the legislation passed.
What do you love about hemp?
Where do I start! My love of hemp and passion for the industry has continued to grow and I truly believe hemp is the vehicle to bring about radical positive global change on an environmental, economic, social and health level. This is why our Mantra is “healthy products”, “healthy people”, “healthy planet”.
Hemp is a plant that can clothe, fuel, provide shelter, feed and medicate you in a much more environmentally sustainable and healthier way.
The hemp industry was shut down in the 1930s due to the threat it posed to the cotton and pharmaceutical industry. Prior to this, it was used as a food, medicine and material for over 3000 years. Now the time has come to relearn and rebuild an ancient industry!
Hemp puts the power back into the people's hands because it is plant-based, has thousands of uses and is less likely to be controlled by a few corporations. It’s a product that makes sense to be processed, value-added and consumed close to where it's cultivated, bringing social/community benefits and a greater distribution of wealth.
Embracing hemp will break the control and deception inflicted on us by big pharma, big cotton, big chemical etc Unfortunately the greed of many corporations and their influence on politicians has led us down a path of self and environmental destruction. Hemp is the conduit to break this cycle, with the information age in full swing humans are becoming more aware and empowered to make choices and support more environmentally friendly, healthy and socially acceptable products.
Hemp is not an alternative industry, it's actually the solution! Knowing that growth and development of the hemp industry are going to keep giving to me, the planet and people for years to come keeps me excited and passionate and gives me purpose.
Why is the Hemp industry becoming so popular in today's climate? E.g., sustainability benefits, properties?
It’s a new industry with a mass-market scale, the industry is a series of many industries. Furthermore, favourable legislative changes are happening around the globe and will continue to happen.
As a food source hemp has more protein per 100g than beef or other super seeds like Flax and Chia. It also has more omegas than flax or chia and 1/3 the carbs. It really is the most complete food source on the planet. It’s also the best alternative to fish oil, and without depleting the fish stocks or consuming the level of heavy metals. Consuming hemp is much lower impact living than consuming beef and fish. Plant-based proteins are a far better alternative to meat production, consuming far fewer resources and producing less C02.
The oils from the plant flowers and leaves are also used as a medicine, laws surrounding its use as a medicine varies by country. Hemp is known to produce phytocannabinoids called Cannabidiol (CBD) which is noted to have many benefits as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, anti-epileptic. The phytocannabinoids in the plant interact with our bodies own endocannabinoid receptors which are said to help maintain the health level and homeostasis of the body.
There is also a lot of interest around hemp as a building material and use in the manufacture of paper and bio-plastics.
How did you come up with the idea to start ECS Botanics?
I needed to direct all my passion and knowledge of hemp somewhere, so it seemed like the most rational thing to do. With my Tasmanian farming background, we knew we could successfully cultivate hemp and with my business partner Guy Banducci we knew we could create and sell great products.
You grow your Hemp in Tasmania, why is Tassie such a good climate for Hemp?
Tassie is undoubtedly the best place to grow hemp in Australia, if not the world. From a climate point, we are a cool climate but have warm long summer days which are perfect for producing hemp seed and a consistent and concentrated profile of secondary metabolites. Tasmania also has an abundance of water supply, the state has a moratorium on genetically modified crops, some of the cleanest air in the world, plus has a clean, green image which is recognised globally.
Which countries are leading the way globally with Hemp?
It’s hard to say, but certainly not Australia. Some of the Australian companies have taken their operations offshore in order to grow their businesses. There is no one country that is leading the way as hemp has so many uses and each country has different sets of laws which govern what area of the hemp market a business can participate.
For example, some countries are involved more so in fibre, others cannabinoids and others seed. Also, some countries might only have industries in certain states where a special exemption or set of laws apply. There are companies in the US now looking to build facilities to produce paper and bioplastics for straws, in the Netherlands, there is now dual harvesting of fibre for building products and high protein cattle feed. The industry is very fragmented, bringing all these skill sets and knowledge together (and making the policy and lawmakers seeing sense) is key to building a sustainable industry in Tasmania and Australia.
How would you encourage people to experience Hemp?
I would encourage people to consume hemp and feel the difference for themselves. I have a couple of spoonfuls of hulled hemp seeds from the packet daily and a spoonful of oil in my morning smoothie. Hemp seed has been tagged as the most complete food source on the plant, containing all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary to maintain healthy human life, essentially a medicinal food and once you benefiting from eating it you will continue to eat more.
I would also encourage people to do more research and start learning about this wonder plant and its many uses, including as a medicine, construction material, source of paper and bio-plastic. Also learn the other benefits hemp has one the environment, for example, hemp is claimed to be a carbon-negative crop which can be used in decontamination and phytoremediation of soils. I want people to learn more about this plant, so they can also have the same lightbulb moment I had, to realise that we all depend on hemp for a better future.
What Hemp products are you launching in 2019?
We are launching a range of products soon now that our first crops are harvested.
Our range consisting of all hemp includes of pouches of dehulled hemp seeds, bottles of hemp seed oil and hemp seed oil capsules.
We are also launching a range of soups, protein shake powders, curry sauces and a dressing which all contain hemp. The soups are ready to be heated, while our curry sauces just require coconut milk and a choice of vegetable or meat. Our products are for people on the go who don’t want to compromise on taste or nutrition.
Want to know more about hemp? Read the What is Hemp? information page.