I’m from a mixed farm in Bandon, Co Cork. We’re in dairy, beef, tillage and we’ve forestry as well. It’s very diverse. I’m 16 and in transition year in St Brogan’s College, Bandon.
I was interested in debating and Model United Nations (UN) before I was interested in climate action and the environment.
When that came up as a topic in debates, it was something I began to research more and more. That’s how I started getting into sustainability.
I was one of 157 youth delegates to take part in the RTÉ Youth Assembly on Climate in Dáil Éireann in 2019.
I applied to be in the food and farming group. That’s when I began looking at different alternatives in farming, trying to see ways it could be more sustainable.
Looking back on it, I don’t think I was feeling anything, I was just in shock
The proposal I put forward surrounding hemp at the Youth Assembly was selected and I got to speak in the Dáil.
Looking back on it, I don’t think I was feeling anything, I was just in shock. The period of time between actually getting told I would get to speak in the Dáil, and speaking, was a half an hour. There were speech amendments being made up to the last minute, so I had no time to feel anything, either way. I think the way it happened, it worked out well.
After that my science teacher approached me and said: “You should do a BT Young Scientist project and investigate hemp.” I thought it was a great idea, to continue with the hemp research.
I ended up winning the Teagasc Award at the BT Young Scientist a few weeks ago. As part of the project I held a zoom information evening on hemp for farmers. Barry Caslin, he’s an energy and rural development specialist in Teagasc, spoke at it.
I conducted a survey among farmers before the information evening and then resurveyed them again after. In the first survey I found a lot of misconceptions around hemp.
You’re seeing misconceptions with marijuana a bit there
One in three farmers believed hemp was illegal to grow in Ireland, one in ten believed hemp could only be grown indoors and just over 40% of farmers surveyed thought hemp was a narcotic. You’re seeing misconceptions with marijuana a bit there.
You can make money from hemp in Ireland at the moment, but the profit margins aren’t at their potential. All of the hemp crop can be used for different purposes, but currently it’s mainly the seeds that are utilised here, because the processing facilities for the other parts of the plant haven’t been developed yet.
What is needed, really, is Government investment in the hemp industry
Hemp as a crop has the potential to be very financially viable for farmers to grow. What is needed, really, is Government investment in the hemp industry. Hemp has over 50,000 potential product applications from construction to pharmaceutical, bioplastics and more.
Hemp has the potential to be a very sustainable crop for Irish farmers also. Sustainability has three pillars; economic, social and environmental. It’s all about balancing the three.
I notice with a lot of climate action proposals, they may only consider the environmental impact, but they have to consider the economic benefits or drawbacks of putting a certain action in place too.
I hear proposals about cutting down cattle herds without any kind of viable alternative. I’d be very aware of the finances within farming and what would actually work from the farmer’s point of view, because the bottom line figure needs to work, I believe anyway.
We’re excited about what could lie ahead for hemp in west Cork
I looked at this from the point of view of, yes, how can we satisfy climate action plans, but also the rural development plans, to insure that we’re not putting the rural economy at risk.
We’re actually applying for a licence to grow hemp on our home farm here.
We’re excited about what could lie ahead for hemp in west Cork. My dad, Michael, he’s the biggest advocate for it. He has every farmer in west Cork told about it. He’ll have the whole place growing hemp. I’m really thankful to him.
My dad is even loving that I’m more involved in the farm than I was before
On the farm, I wouldn’t be as interested in dairy now. With the tillage, I’d have more of an interest in tillage.
My dad is even loving that I’m more involved in the farm than I was before. This provided a new connection for me.
I really enjoyed doing the project, some of the people I got to meet through it were incredible. I want to continue with it. The research is ongoing, you could say. University College Cork (UCC) students are looking for project booklets and the findings. Teagasc has looked for the data as well.
I’m very unsure of what I want to do after school, but definitely before doing the BT Young Scientist I mightn’t have considered science as much as I do now.
I would have always been very interested in business, law and politics, but now science is definitely a door that I’m keeping open. I’m going to do ag science for the Leaving Cert.
I can’t see myself working as a frontline politician, but I could see myself working in the civil service or I even love the idea of an EU or UN career.
What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Hemp and marijuana both belong to the cannabis family. The difference between the two is the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) . THC is the primary chemical in cannabis responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. Hemp contains very low levels of THC, less than 0.2%.
The survey conducted among farmers before the hemp information evening (Fig1) found:
The farmers re-surveyed after (Fig2) the hemp information evening said: