As more farms are facing the financial crunch, many are looking to diversify and explore new and different options to sustain their businesses and bring in revenues. Marketing and PR play an important role in supporting these businesses and helping them reach their full potential.
One such example is the growing of cannabis for both medicinal use and as industrial hemp, increasingly being explored by the farming industry. This venture needs careful marketing and PR to support this initiative as cannabis is a controversial crop; however, it is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition if markets can be secured.
The UK is already one of the world’s largest growers of medicinal cannabis and now the opportunities from growing non-psychoactive industrial hemp are gaining traction as farms look to diversify further. The uses for hemp are wide-ranging and include cooking oil, dietary supplements and biofuels from the seeds and textiles. The stem contains strong fibre which can be used in building materials and even car bodywork panels. Hemp was widely grown in the UK in the Middle Ages when it was used for making sails, ropes and fishing nets and its oil was burned in lamps.
Farmers are taking advice on the many regulations surrounding growing cannabis and what makes a suitable site. Hemp requires dry, light soils and thrives in hot weather. It also absorbs carbon and grows quickly, establishing a sunlight-absorbing canopy which blocks the light preventing weeds from growing, therefore pesticides are not required. Hemp aerates the soil and releases nitrogen into it making it ideal for crop rotation. A drawback is that harvesting requires specialist kit.
A government licence is required to permit the growing of industrial hemp. Sites will be monitored by the Rural Payments Agency to ensure plants do not contain over the legal limit of 0.2pc of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive substance of cannabis.
It’s easy to see why this crop is popular with farms looking to diversify as in 2019 the worldwide legal cannabis industry generated around £11.5bn in revenue and this figure is expected to escalate. Prescriptions of medicinal cannabis were legalised last year and are set to rapidly increase. Whilst lucrative, growing high-grade medicinal cannabis to extract CBD oil (cannabidiol) is not straightforward; it is cost-intensive requiring climate-controlled glasshouses: lower-grade industrial hemp is an easier option.
The profits to be made have caught the attention of financiers and institutions. While the biggest profits are set to come from CBD extraction, industrial hemp appears to be a strong prospect if markets are secured for its many and varied products.
For businesses looking for marketing for farm diversification, contact our specialist rural PR division at Source PR for advice on PR, marketing and social media.