Isaac Beach felt like the astronaut Neil Armstrong landing on the moon when he first stepped foot on a block of land he's now planting up with hemp.
"Literally the wind was blowing dust off it, blowing the topsoil off ... it was quite shocking."
The coastal block at Waimārama in Hawke's Bay had been depleted of nutrients, he said, after 30 years leased out for maize crops, season after season.
Truck loads of chicken poo were being sprayed on to the paddock when Country Life popped in to chat to Beach and his partner Kirby Heath in late autumn.
"You can literally hear Papatūānuku saying thank you," Beach said.
A multi species cover crop will go in next to prepare the soil further for the hemp, planted in spring.
It's among several blocks of Maori-owned whenua in the region which are being planted in hemp as part of Kanapu Hempery's efforts to heal the land, involve local whānau and produce nutritious food from paddock to plate.
"We are really interested in identifying whānau and hapū who are keen to see life return to their lands but also participate in an economic development opportunity," Beach said.
Beach founded Kanapu over a cup of tea with Ōtāne farmer Simon White in 2017.
Beach had gone on an overseas tour to research the potential for industrial hemp - cannabis sativa - a decade ago and saw its "vast potential" for medicine, building materials and nutritious food products.
In 2018 a change in New Zealand's legislation meant Kanapu could start manufacturing food from the protein and nutrient-rich seed of the plant.
Local landowner Innike Broadman said her whānau were a bit "iffy" about putting their land into hemp but they have since jumped on board, seeing a chance to take back their kaitiaki - guardianship - status.
"It's not about making a quick dollar ... it's about getting back in touch with our whenua and taking control of it ourselves."
They are aiming for organic certification and, in preparing and caring for the land, Beach draws on mātauranga - traditional knowledge - including the knowhow passed down to him from his market gardener great grandfather.
"We try our best to do the best with what our tipuna gave us ... combining that mātauranga with present technology."
Kanapu is also getting into alternative dairy products and hoping to launch its newest food, hemp milk, before the end of the year.