A new skincare line inspired by a government-funded hemp research project into the restoration of soil in vineyards has launched for the export market.

New industry figures show nutraceutical hemp could be a $2 billion industry for New Zealand.

Cosmetic brand Hark & Zander was founded after a successful trial into the use of industrial hemp as a way of improving soil quality and vineyard biodiversity was co-funded by Callaghan Innovation, the government’s R&D agency.

Co-founder and Marlborough vineyard manager Kirsty Harkness began looking at hemp as an alternative to seaweed fertilisers, effective microorganisms and estate-made compost which rejuvenate the soil but without taking nutrients or moisture from the vines or negatively impacting the grapes or wine.

Cumulative years of soil compaction and nutrient deficiency take its toll on the health of any vineyard, she says, and it’s important to ensure the life cycle is not just sustainable but also regenerative.

“I had trialled blue borage, red clover, phacelia and buckwheat as cover crops in the vineyard but it wasn’t until I looked at hemp as not only a way of breathing life back into the soil but also as a potential secondary revenue source that I really got excited.

“In the same way the human body needs to be healthy to be resistant to disease and infection, the soil also responds to this methodology. Once we were confident the hemp wouldn’t take nutrients or moisture from the vines, we began looking at the potential benefits of hemp for the body as well,” she says.