Wool can now be tested to trace where it comes from, and an antipollution mask has been designed by Karen Walker – two projects paid for out of a $3 million research fund to boost the wool industry.
The projects are sorely needed to fortify the industry, with the latest quarterly forecast showing wool exports fell 28 per cent to $550 million to the year to June as a lack of demand from China weighed on prices.
Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) Chairman Derrick Millton also singled out the challenge of animal welfare group PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recent campaign, “I’d rather go naked than wear wool”.
It highlighted the need to promote the value of wool as a natural 21st century fibre, as well as the high animal welfare standards in New Zealand that protected sheep, Millton said.
The test to trace the wool measures stable isotopes, and would be welcomed by consumers who wanted to know the origin of products.
AgResearch scientists have developed a way of measuring differing levels of stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur which can be used for a wool traceability system.
“It’s a real step forward for the New Zealand wool industry. The test will provide New Zealand wool users with a tool to protect their marketing initiatives in the future,” Millton said.
Temperature, altitude, rainfall levels, soil, and air purity generate unique reproducible levels of stable isotopes in the fibre which survive dyeing, cleaning, and pressing.
Fashion designer Karen Walker has put her talents to use to create an antipollution mask using wool for Lanaco, who boast it has “the world’s most breathable filter”.
Lanaco recently partnered with Auckland company Healthy Breath which owns a large chain of pharmaceutical stores and distribution networks in China and Asia, and will spearhead marketing and distribution of the Lanaco products.
Other projects funded by Wool Research Organisation New Zealand include:
* A partnership with the New Zealand Merino Company to promote the eco credentials of NZ wool, working with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition who are creating standards across a range of fibres.
* Developing a New Zealand Certificate in Crossbred Wool Handling, with Taratahi planning to run the first course
* A project with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment looking for new high value and high volume uses for NZ coarse wool.
* Supporting Lincoln Agritech to find new uses for crossbred wool.
New Zealand produces 9.5 per cent of global wool from 29 million sheep.