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Natural fibres could be a game changer

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The launch of a new natural fibre company is set to re-emerge wool and hemp to the forefront of a global sea-change in consumer preference.
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Craig Carr | December 07, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

In a move to innovate for a greener tomorrow, NZ Yarn, a subsidiary of Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool), and hemp processing company Hemp NZ have joined forces to create New Zealand Natural Fibres (NZNF), a natural fibres and materials business with global ambitions.

NZNF chair Craig Carr says the new company is aiming to be a pioneer in the global natural fibres revolution.

Products will be made from renewable NZ-grown hemp and wool, as well as blends of the two fibres using proprietary technology to prototype, produce and market a wide range of consumer and industrial options.

“We have a clear purpose to transform natural fibres to enable earth-positive choices,” Carr said.

The creation of the new company will pave the way for the development of an extensive portfolio of new product innovation, while also opening new national and global sales channels, NZNF chief executive Colin McKenzie said.

“We are very positive about the future of NZ wool and hemp products worldwide.

“There is tremendous potential to increase awareness of the sustainability, versatility and quality of wool and hemp across a variety of value-add applications.”

McKenzie says the company has aspirations to build its farmer and grower base, ramp up research and development activity and launch into new domestic and offshore markets.

The new natural fibres company will be run from the Christchurch-based NZ Yarn plant, where the company is currently installing a leading-edge natural fibre processing facility which it has imported from Europe.

This highly advanced equipment, the first of its kind in NZ, will enable NZNF to begin what is thought to be the first-ever commercial processing of hemp stalks into fibre in the Southern Hemisphere.

The new processing facility will operate alongside NZ Yarn’s existing yarn spinning equipment, which spins strong NZ wool into yarn for the carpet industry worldwide.

McKenzie says NZNF’s investment in new equipment means the company has a strong, and difficult to replicate, platform from which to develop market-leading innovations in hemp fibre processing, as well as the development of new consumer products made from wool yarn, wool and hemp hybrid yarns and non-woven wool and hemp products. 

Further bolstering NZNF’s market positioning is its vertically integrated structure, boasting a large and geographically diversified base of contracted growers of hemp and wool. 

McKenzie says wool and hemp are among the oldest fibres known to humankind and people have used these ancient materials in a wide range of applications for millennia. 

“It’s only fitting that today, in the face of looming global environmental challenges, natural fibres including wool and hemp are now re-emerging at the forefront of a global sea-change in consumer preference,” he said.

“We are tremendously excited to be at the forefront of a growth industry that is working to address some of the most critical issues facing life on earth. 

“As our oceans fill with plastic and grim climate change predictions threaten the livelihoods of communities around the world, consumers are choosing to shun synthetic fibres and plastics in favour of products made from sustainable materials, which help us reduce our impact on our fragile environment.”

He says this presents a huge opportunity for growers of materials such as wool and hemp, and producers of consumer and industrial products made from them, to ride the wave of changing consumer behaviour.

Included in potential product applications being explored are wool and hemp blends for use in soft flooring. 

Blending hemp with Merino fibre to produce yarn for use in outdoor activewear is another area NZNF is well advanced in, with partnerships already in place with major brands in NZ, North America and Western Europe.

Non-woven products are also being developed and tested, including a natural hemp-based material that could replace single-use plastic food packaging, and a hemp-based replacement for the permeable synthetic geotextile fabric, which is used to stabilise soil in infrastructure works.

NZNF has plans to look at how hemp fibre could be used to produce a natural replacement for carbon composites, packaging and building materials. 

“Wool and hemp are two natural, NZ-grown fibres which have many synergies in terms of sustainable provenance, ethics, environmental credentials, processing performance and product characteristics,” McKenzie said

“We are extremely excited about moving forward under the NZNF brand and realising the enormous potential natural fibres have to help change the world.”

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