Wednesday, April 24, 2024

New dawn for strong wool

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Christchurch-based wool research organisation WRONZ has launched a new commercial entity to target new products and markets for New Zealand strong wool. The WRONZ-led research initiative and launch of Wool Source follows a five-year programme looking at innovative uses including the development of unique wool particle products with applications from cosmetics to printing.
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The establishment of Wool Source and a pilot production plant based at Lincoln University will create new products and secure new markets to help revitalise NZ’s ailing strong wool industry.

Wool Source is tasked with commercialising the new products.

Chief executive Tom Hooper says Wool Source is reimaging the future of NZ wool.

He says new pigment, particle and powder products from all natural, sustainable strong wool particles provide the base ingredient for a new generation of high-performance materials.

The wool will be deconstructed down to a cellular level to make particles, powders, and pigments.

It is then reconstituted to form a very fine wool powder that can be used in a range of applications such as personal care, cosmetics and pigments.

“We are focused on proving the commercial viability of our products and establishing demand, predominantly with international markets,” Hooper said.

To do this Wool Source needs to demonstrate it can produce at scale with a unit production cost and price point that enables margins that create long term value-added opportunities for the NZ wool sector.

“The best partners we can have to do this are those we can talk to face-to face, so Kiwi-based businesses that will explore particles, powders and pigments either into existing products or jointly develop whole new products.”

From skincare to luxury fibres, the opportunities for new products are endless. 

Personal care is shampoo and other hair related products that have keratin in them. 

Keratin is a form of protein that wool is a very good source of, and this is an excellent replacement ingredient to some of the other sources of keratin that go into those products, Hooper said.

There are a range of uses in the cosmetic sector including products such as bronzers.

Wool powders will be good for any product that needs colour as one of its strengths is taking up colour very well.

Hooper says products have been tested in international markets for some time.

“But there is a big difference between expressions of interest and a solid commercially viable order that says that’s cool, yes this works for us, and we want to run with it.”

Once Wool Source has proven the commercial viability of the products it will find a NZ partner to take on large-scale production.

“Ultimately we would like to see the future development of a large-scale manufacturing operation in NZ solely using NZ strong wool,” Hooper said.

WRONZ chairman Andy Fox says the launch of Wool Source is a step forward towards the vision for new uses for strong wool that create new market demand and better outcomes for farmers and the wool sector.

Investment is coming from the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund further product lines and commercial development as part of the wider New Uses for Strong Wool programme.

MPI is contributing $1.95 million via its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) fund alongside $2.92m from WRONZ.

The Strong Wool Action Group (SWAG) is jointly funding Wool Source’s market engagement alongside WRONZ.

Wool Industry Research chair Garth Carnaby says it’s exciting to see the research progress to the commercial development and market engagement phase with the potential to stimulate new market demand for NZ strong wool.

Federated Farmers Meat and wool chair William Beetham says NZ’s wool industry is entering an exciting new era of collaboration, innovation, and consumer-focus to deliver game changing profitability to farmers,

“We are really pleased to see industry players work together to end fragmentation and concentrate on driving extra value from the superior attributes we all know that strong wool entails.

“I believe it’s all adding up to a new dawn for NZ strong wool,” Beetham said.

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