The woolly way

WOOL WAS ONCE THE ECON­OMY’S GREAT WHITE HOPE. NOW, AFTER YEARS IN THE DOLDRUMS, SOME IN­NO­VA­TIVE BUSI­NESSES ARE HELP­ING THE PROD­UCT RISE AGAIN

NZ Life & Leisure - - Blue-sky Thinking - WORDS LUCY CORRY

THE ASTINO SOUNDS like the name of a cock­tail or a fancy Euro­pean sports car, but you’re un­likely to find it any­where near a bar or even a park­ing lot. It is in fact a trade­marked breed of sheep that was de­vel­oped in 2017. The Astino prefers the fresh air and steep ter­rain of our high coun­try farms.

This cud­dly char­ac­ter – and its cousins – could be a magic bul­let for the dwin­dling for­tunes of the New Zealand wool in­dus­try. While wool was once the warm back­bone of the econ­omy, there’s lit­tle in­ter­na­tional de­mand for the fleeces that once went into car­pets and tex­tiles all over the world (and there are only so many knit­ted jumpers a per­son can own).

A re­port pre­pared by the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries in De­cem­ber last year says that the wool mar­ket re­mains ‘sub­dued’, with mea­gre over­seas tak­ers to boost traded vol­umes or prices. On the other hand, fine wool ex­ports (which ac­count for eight per cent of New Zealand’s wool ex­port vol­ume) have risen nearly 20

per cent over the past year and are ap­proach­ing record lev­els.

This is where the Astino comes in. It’s bred specif­i­cally for pre­mium wool-based health­care prod­ucts by Lanaco, a New Zealand wool in­no­va­tion com­pany. Lanaco chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Daven­port says re­al­iz­ing that wool could be used as a fil­ter in­stead of many mono­func­tional syn­thetic fi­bres was a light­bulb mo­ment. It ticks all the boxes: it’s bacteria-re­sis­tant, man­ages mois­ture, re­moves tox­ins from the air and is easy to breathe through.

Lanaco went a step fur­ther and set about cre­at­ing their own sup­ply chain “where we could write the per­for­mance we re­quired from the wool and set that as a breed­ing ob­jec­tive”.

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