Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

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New skincare combines hemp and vine health

Kirsty Harkness has found hemp to be a successful alternative to seaweed fertilisers in her Marlborough vineyard.

Vineyard health and skin health might just have something in common after all with the launch of a new range of skincare beauty products.

A Government-funded hemp research project in New Zealand vineyards has led to the launch of a new skincare range called Harkness & Zander.

The research project began when Kirsty Harkness started to investigate hemp as an alternative to seaweed fertilizers to rejuvenate the soil on her Marlborough vineyard. She applied for a licence to grow hemp from the Ministry of Health three years ago and planted it in the middle of vine rows as a cover crop.

“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 that I got really excited and saw it as way of breathing life back into the soil.”

She also saw the potential of a secondary income from the new cover crop, if it was successful.

Three years down the track, she has now launched a new cosmetic brand called Hark & Zander, which was founded after successful trials into industrial hemp to improve soil quality and vineyard biodiversity. Her research was co-funded by Callaghan Innovation, the government’s research and development agency.

“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.”

Harkness began her career as a registered nurse. The results of the research have been analysed by a local scientist and are now to be published in a North American viticulture journal, in 2021.

Her business partner in the new skincare venture is Gabrielle Zander, a specialist in blending essential oils for skincare.

Harkness says the hemp seed goes through a special filtration process to produce a clarified oil with a golden colour.

“Our first efforts to filter the seed resulted in a green coloured oil. Now we are working with a team in Wanganui, which uses the first machine of its kind in New Zealand to de-hull, remove any sediment and produce a cold-pressed, clarified oil in the golden colour hue we love – which means we can produce a locally made product without needing to import it.”

The first product is a 100% natural hemp tonic face oil, which contains nine vitamin rich plant oils such as hemp seed oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba seed oil, evening primrose oil, squalane and grape seed oil. The future range will have 15 products and will be sold through retail stores and online.

Harkness is on the New Zealand Hemp Board (NZHIA) and a government hemp committee says interest in growing hemp has increased significantly in the past three years with hectares increasing tenfold from 200 to 2000 over this time.

The company name Hark & Zander is being trademarked in China, Australia, USA, Europe and the UK with a second stage to include Canada and Japan.