In September 2019, agricultural sector-specialist firm, Rounding Up, was engaged by AgriFutures Australia, a federal statutory authority established (as the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation) by the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989.
We were tasked with supporting the development of national Industrial Hemp Variety Trials (IHVT) to measure variety performance, primarily by grain yield and composition (oil and protein), across a national footprint of sites. Establishing IHVT addresses a core issue identified by the Australian industrial hemp industry as essential to its growth ambitions.
On behalf of AgriFutures Australia, in conjunction with a Project Steering Committee, Rounding Up consulted widely with the industry on priority areas to shape the development and costing of an IHVT scheme.
A major body of work has been development of a framework and detailed set of research protocols for the trials. Additional input into these materials were sought from a Technical Committee bringing considerable experience from across the industrial hemp value chain – growing, processing, agronomy, research design and extension.
The IHVT materials will prescribe transparency and objectivity in the selection of varieties, site locations and compliance in the delivery of the trials. They will ensure simplicity in design and execution without compromising the integrity of the trials and learnings to be achieved.
The materials define procedures relating to experimental processes (ie. site preparation, planting, harvesting, drying), accurate data collection, recording and access, audit oversight, laboratory methodology and timely reporting. There is provision for oversight by an expert biometrician to ensure statistical rigour in design and analysis of outputs.
This initial phase of work by Rounding Up on IHVT framework and protocols is complemented by recommended governance and management structures to overlay the delivery of IHVT. This includes well-defined roles and responsibilities and inclusion of resources with expertise in variety trials, financial and risk management, quality assurance and project management. The data captured is to be housed in a central database as part of the governance for the project.
This collective work on the IHVT project to date is being used to garner required funding from corporates, government agencies and industry/charitable organisations to deliver the research trials nationally.
Whilst focusing on an initial three years, longevity of the IHVT scheme is key with a goal to design and establish a programme that can extend for a decade. The IHVT framework and protocols will accommodate the natural evolution in project objectives as suitable varieties are identified and the examination of the impact of agronomic and other aspects are explored.