Entrepreneur's woolly thinking leads to better bandage

Tekapo entrepreneur Lucas Smith is launching the world's first adhesive wool bandages. Photos: Julian Apse
Tekapo entrepreneur Lucas Smith is launching the world's first adhesive wool bandages. Photos: Julian Apse
He might only be young, but Tekapo entrepreneur Lucas Smith thinks big.

Mr Smith (24) is on a mission to not only heal wounds but to help ''heal the planet''.

He has launched Woolaid, a business producing what is believed to be the world's first adhesive wool bandages.

It follows on the footsteps of Walk On, the merino wool blister protection pads he developed a few years ago.

Mr Smith's interest in the wool industry began over the summer of 2013, when he ended up at Simons Hill Station in the Mackenzie District, on a quest to pay his own way through tertiary studies.

He might not have been the best shepherd to set foot on the property, but he did learn about sustainable farming and he developed a passion for merino wool, in particular.

It was while working as a mountain guide that he realised he was sick of dealing with people's feet, especially infected feet, which led to the development of Walk On.

A Woolaid product.
A Woolaid product.
That whole process was also an opportunity to figure out the supply chain, how wool ''gets around'' and to gain an understanding of the fibre.

It was being in the mountains that also led to him thinking about the latest product and how there was an opportunity for merino wool to have a use in a medical platform.

He was thinking about how every other aspect of kit had been upgraded - from better food to better gear - but first aid kids had not been.

Wound protection was either a strip of single-use plastic or a piece of fabric and it ''didn't seem right for the outdoors''.

A Woolaid product.
A Woolaid product.
It got him thinking about making a product that could be left in that environment and that could be returned to the earth.

Woolaid bandages were naturally hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, quick drying, comfortable, moisture wicking and flexible.

As well as being sustainable, they were also helping ensure New Zealand's high country stations remained economically viable and ecologically sustainable, he said.

It had taken three years to get the first commercial prototypes of the bandages and, while the blister pads were still available in New Zealand, Woolaid was ''the piece de resistance'', Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith's father was involved with helping him grow the business, and he also had an intern working for him from the United States.

Woolaid was being launched in the New Zealand market over the next couple of months - most recently into 10 pharmacies and wholefood stories in the South Island and also online - and then into the US market.

There had been a lot of hard work involved but it was coming together and it was exciting to see how it went. The global adhesive bandage industry was valued at $US3.8billion ($NZ5.5billion), he said.

It was the beginning of a new value-add channel for fine wool farmers. The first two runs of products used Australian merino wool, as it had been difficult as a young entrepreneur to get access to New Zealand fibre, he said.

However, the next round of bandages produced would be made from New Zealand merino, and there might be an opportunity in the future to do a blended fabric.

The wool industry has had ''such a hard time'' since the 1980s, with the rise of synthetics, and there was no better time to be involved in it, he believed.

It was one of the most sustainable fibres on earth and there was a ''huge renaissance'' happening, with a swing back to natural fibres, he said.

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