Currently so low-value it’s often left to rot in the paddock, the part of a sheep’s fleece covered in sheep poo, or “the dags”, may have a new lease on life thanks to a Christchurch company’s innovative weed mat.
Wool innovation company Terra Lana has been locally sourcing sheep-pellet-covered wool direct from farmers and using it to manufacture biodegradable, self-fertilizing mats called the Dagmat, with the aim of bringing more value back to the farmer.
The mats provide weed control for new seedlings, using the biodegradable nature of wool fibres and the nutrients found in sheep pellets like nitrogen and sulfur to help the soil thrive.
Terra Lana business development manager Brad Stuart said as well as the biological benefits, the product also helps support local farmers and local economy – unlike competing products such as the popular coconut matting.
“All we are doing is importing all these other products from overseas, and the only value added in the process is the margin put on by local distributors then selling it into the market,” Stuart said.
“We’re using a product that’s grown locally and manufactured and can then add value to the local economy throughout the whole supply chain.”
Stuart said that the company had been manufacturing wool matting using recycled wool, but it would often have dyes and various other things that aren’t good for the soil.
“Recycled wool often has additives from the carpet manufacturing industry as it’s all waste wool that comes from there, but when you consider something that is going in the ground and it’s going to biodegrade, we want it to be as pure as possible.
“That was the idea for us, it was about how do we just use a 100% organic product that we know doesn’t have any added products in it.”
Because it is locally sourced, “we can customize what we make to various density mats for different applications, for example very dense mats for areas where they don’t want sprays, meaning they need good weed suppression for a long period of time.
“That’s where the higher density products come in. With the lower density products they often just want to stabilise the ground and prevent erosion.
“And on top of that all these nutrients like nitrogen and sulfur, that’s all just inherent within the product.”
Stuart said Terra Lana is optimistic about the New Zealand wool industry and what products like Dagmat can do for the fibre’s long-term sustainability.
“Dag wool is basically a throwaway product, and what we’re saying is that it doesn’t have to be.
“It’s now basically a product that can serve a purpose, and value can be added to it. And through this, ultimately what we want is farmers to see wool as a sustainable fibre to farm.”