NZ Yarn, a subsidiary of Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool), is joining forces with hemp processing company Hemp NZ to create a new natural fibres and materials business: New Zealand Natural Fibres (NZNF).
Craig Carr, Chairman of NZNF, says the new company, which is jointly owned by CP Wool and Hemp NZ, is aiming to be a pioneer in the global natural fibres revolution.
“We have a clear purpose to transform natural fibres to enable earth-positive choices. Products will be made from renewable, New Zealand-grown hemp and wool, as well as blends of the two fibres, using proprietary technology to prototype, produce and market a wide range of consumer and industrial options.”
Colin McKenzie, CEO of NZNF, says the creation of the new company paves the way for the development of an extensive portfolio of new product innovation, as well as opening new national and global sales channels.
“We are very positive about the future of New Zealand wool and hemp products worldwide. There is tremendous potential to increase awareness of the sustainability, versatility and quality of wool and hemp across a variety of value-add applications,” he says.
“With this in mind, we have aspirations to build our farmer and grower base, ramp up our research and development activity and launch into new domestic and offshore markets.”
New Zealand Natural Fibres will be based in the NZ Yarn plant in Burnside, Christchurch, where the company is in the process of installing a leading-edge natural fibre processing facility which it has imported from Europe.
This highly advanced equipment, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, enables NZNF to begin what is thought to be the first-ever commercial processing of hemp stalks into fibre in the Southern Hemisphere.
The new processing facility will operate alongside NZ Yarn’s existing yarn spinning equipment, which spins strong New Zealand wool into yarn for the carpet industry worldwide.
NZNF’s investment into new equipment means the company has a strong, and difficult to replicate, platform from which to develop market-leading innovations in hemp fibre processing, as well as the development of new consumer products made from wool yarn, wool & hemp hybrid yarns and nonwoven wool and hemp products.
Further bolstering the market positioning of NZNF is its vertically-integrated structure, boasting a large and geographically-diversified base of contracted growers of hemp and wool.
Wool and hemp are among the oldest fibres known to humankind and people have used these ancient materials in a wide range of applications for millennia, says McKenzie.
“It’s therefore only fitting that today, in the face of looming global environmental challenges, natural fibres including wool and hemp are now re-emerging at the forefront of a global sea-change in consumer preference.
“We are tremendously excited to be at the forefront of a growth industry that is working to address some the most critical issues facing life on Earth. As our oceans fill with plastic and grim climate change predictions threaten the livelihoods of communities around the world, consumers are choosing to shun synthetic fibres and plastics in favour of products made from sustainable materials which help us reduce our impact on our fragile environment.”
This presents a tremendous opportunity for growers of materials such as wool and hemp, and producers of consumer and industrial products made from them, to ride the wave of changing consumer behaviour, he says.
“Among the possible product applications we are exploring are wool and hemp blends for use in soft flooring. Blending hemp with merino fibre to produce yarn for use in outdoor active wear is another area we are well advanced in, with partnerships already in place with major brands in New Zealand, North America and Western Europe.”
Non-woven products are also being developed and tested; including a natural hemp-based material that could replace single-use plastic food packaging, as well as a hemp-based replacement for the permeable synthetic ‘geotextile’ fabric which is used to stabilise soil in infrastructure works.
In the future, NZNF also plans to look at how hemp fibre could be used to produce a natural replacement for carbon composites, packaging and building materials, as well as in many other industrial applications.
“Wool and hemp are two natural, New Zealand-grown fibres which have many synergies in terms of sustainable provenance, ethics, environmental credentials, processing performance and product characteristics,” he says.
“We are extremely excited about moving forward under the NZNF brand and realising the enormous potential natural fibres have to help change the world.”