Deconstructed wool research unveiled at products event

Wool Source pigments are in pre-commercialisation trials. Photo: Supplied
Wool Source pigments are in pre-commercialisation trials. Photo: Supplied
Research into new uses for New Zealand’s strong wool has led to the development of wool particles, powders and pigments having export potential for applications as diverse as cosmetics, printing, luxury goods and personal care.

Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand’s research initiative with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was aimed at exploring new uses for the fibre.

WRONZ unveiled the wool products at an event in Christchurch to celebrate the achievements from its New Uses for Strong Wool programme, supported by research, industry and funding partners.

WRONZ also announced the launch of commercial development company Wool Source to evolve the new products and assess market demand for the strong wool innovation, along with completion of its pilot production facility to manufacture its first deconstructed wool ingredients from 100% biodegradable, renewable and sustainable New Zealand strong wool.

Investment from the Ministry for Primary Industries was also announced to fund further product lines and commercial development as part of the wider New Uses for Strong Wool programme. MPI was contributing $1.95million via its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund alongside $2.92million from WRONZ.

The three-year programme was aimed at proving the commercial viability of the new deconstructed wool particle products. The goal was to develop more sustainable product ingredient alternatives for global manufacturers and consumers, while revitalising New Zealand’s strong wool sector.

Additionally, the Strong Wool Action Group (SWAG) announced it was jointly funding Wool Source’s market engagement alongside WRONZ.

“We’re providing support for Wool Source to undertake a deep dive project into particles, powders and pigments markets to assess the scale and viability of the commercial opportunity. New Zealand’s wool production, 90% of which is strong wool, is at a low point with declining sheep numbers. With many farmers selling wool at a net cost this season, the industry is desperately seeking innovation to boost strong wool demand and prices,” SWAG chief executive Andy Caughey said.

Wool Industry Research Ltd (WIRL), a wholly owned subsidiary company of WRONZ, was five years into its seven-year research contract for the New Uses for Strong Wool R&D programme. MBIE invested $8.4million of the $21million seven-year project in partnership with WRONZ.

The research programme had focused on deconstructing wool to a cellular and particle level and then reconstructing it for various product uses.

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