Surfing start for new wool boom?

December 4, 2018

New Zealand wool prices tripled overnight when the USA sought to build up its strategic stockpiles during the Korean War.

It was all down hill from there as synthetics replaced natural fibres.

Merino has had a renaissance thanks to firms like Icebreaker and All Birds using its eco-friendly, comfort, temperature regulation and odour resistance credentials to sell clothes and shoes.

But farmers are lucky to recoup the cost of shearing crossbred wool.

While that’s not good now, lower prices make it less expensive to experiment and develop new wool-based products which could lead to greater demand, and better prices, in the future.

That could include raw material for surfboards:

New Zealand surfer Paul Barron was laminating a board a decade ago when he accidentally spilled resin on his sweater. It gave him an idea: What if he built a surfboard shell out of wool? Traditional foam boards are typically housed in resin and fiberglass for structural integrity. But fiberglass can be harmful to workers and isn’t easily recyclable; board makers have long sought a greener alternative. This month, the Carlsbad, California, company Firewire Surfboards is releasing Barron’s WoolLight board–showcasing a technological advance that could change how other products are designed, from yachts to cars . . .

Barron partnered with the New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) to develop the wool composite technology:

. . .The technology is a new high value market for New Zealand strong wool, at a time when the industry is struggling with low wool prices and looking for alternative markets.

According to NZM Chief Executive John Brakenridge what Firewire is doing producing wool surfboards is the start of a movement and the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wool composite technology.

“While the first application of this technology is being used in surfboards, it has the potential to replace fibreglass in many other products such as boats, aircraft and furniture.

“The wool’s natural performance such as tensile strength means that products made with this new technology are lighter and more flexible than traditional fibreglass, while maintaining its strength.

Tauranga based surfboard maker Barron first came up with the idea when he spilt resin on his wool jersey (jumper). It gave him the idea to build a surfboard shell out of wool. Traditional foam boards are typically housed in resin and fiberglass for structural integrity, Barron’s wool technology replaces fibreglass with wool.

“With this technology we can produce a surfboard that has the potential to outperform traditional boards. Basically you grow a sheep, shear it, wash the wool twice in water and make a material that is light, flexible, durable and fast,” says Barron.

Firewire CE Mark Price is in New Zealand this week to meet with Barron and the Pāmu farmers who will supply the wool for the ‘Woolight’ boards. Price, along with surfing pro Kelly Slater who is a co-owner in Firewire, has a desire to steer the company to zero-landfill by 2020 and they see wool as a component of this process.

“We’re sourcing ZQ wool that is ethically sourced and at the end of its life it will biodegrade and give back to the environment.

“Not only is NZ a country with a long and rich surfing tradition the growers that we are sourcing the wool from share our values of doing things in a better way.

“Surfers by definition commune with nature on a daily basis, so they have a heightened sensitivity towards the environment and can relate to the technology that wool offers in terms of performance, and obviously the sustainability story is off the charts,” says Price.

Pāmu Farms of New Zealand will supply the bulk of the wool fibre that is used in the ‘Woolight’ surf board. According to Pāmu CE Steven Carden, the partnership with Firewire gives sheep farmers a sense of pride and confidence that the future for wool doesn’t have to be the status quo.

“We hadn’t thought surfing would ever provide the channel to take a positive New Zealand wool story to the world but it makes sense that those that enjoy nature so closely would be those that can solve environmental and performance challenges – we can learn from this, says Carden. . . 

The ‘Woolight’ surfboard range will be available for sale in New Zealand around April/May 2019.

Wool is odour and fire resistant. That might not matter in surfboards but could be beneficial in furniture, yachts and cars.

Wool is also renewable and biodegradable which ought to matter who anyone who claims to care about the environment.

Surfing could start a new wool boom and it doesn’t have to stop there. Wool is already being tested by Nasa for use in space.

 


Will Icebreaker VF deal get OIO tick?

November 4, 2017

Icebreaker, one of the company’s that made merino fashionable, is selling to a USA company  but the deal needs OIO approval:

US-based VF Corporation needs Overseas investment office approval to buy Kiwi merino clothing maker Icebreaker, meaning the deal is worth at least $100 million. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Merino producers have been getting a lot of pressure to sign up to 10-year contracts with Icebreaker. The proposed sale explains that and a good number of committed producers would have made the deal more attractive to the buyer.

VF Corporation has a market capitalization of around US$28 billion and its portfolio includes The North Face, Timberland, SmartWool, Vans, Wrangler and Lee. In its third-quarter result, the company forecast its 2017 revenue would be approximately US$12.1 billion.

Icebreaker had annual sales of $220 million, of which 86 percent were in offshore markets. Its own outlets and e-commerce sales make up 32 percent of sales, according to the company’s latest statement.

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Icebreaker confirmed the need for OIO approval due to the size of the transaction, implying a minimum value of at least $100 million. In a separate statement, VF said “the purchase price is not material to VF.” It also clarified that it expects the transaction to close in April 2018. . . 

I would think the deal would be worth considerably more than $100 million. Regardless of how much more, closure by next April is probably very optimistic.

Friends who have had dealings with the OIO, as sellers and buyers, said it was a very time-consuming process.

Unless it gets a straight decline from the outset, it won’t be any faster under the new government.

According to Icebreaker, the deal creates an expanded opportunity for the New Zealand merino industry. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our global Icebreaker team and for our New Zealand wool suppliers to introduce a whole new universe of consumers to the benefits of sustainably farmed, ethically sourced, New Zealand Merino wool,” said Icebreaker founder Jeremy Moon.

John Brakenridge, CEO of the NZ Merino Company, noted VF have also had a long-term commitment to the New Zealand Merino industry through their investment in SmartWool and NZ Merino has worked with SmartWool in areas such as sustainability and social responsibility.

“Today we are seeing record demand and prices for New Zealand merino wool …the synergy of these two brands working as sisters from the same stable to build increased awareness of the Merino apparel category represents an exciting new development for the New Zealand merino wool industry,” he said. . . 

People tend to be less opposed to selling land to foreigners than selling companies.

But no matter who owns it the land and the business carried out on it stay here.

When a company is sold, there is no guarantee anything will stay in New Zealand.

Icebreaker is a New Zealand company and its clothing is designed here using locally grown merino wool but manufacturing has been done overseas for several years.

If the sale does go ahead, people who want New Zealand made merino will still have the choice of buying from companies like Glowing Sky and Mons Royale.

 


Rural round-up

November 11, 2015

Push for Fonterra board cut takes to road

The board of New Zealand’s biggest company is not the place to learn how to be a director, says an advocate of cutting Fonterra’s board size to improve performance.

Former Fonterra director Colin Armer told about 30 farmer-shareholders at Tatuanui, Waikato that the Fonterra board should not be a “training ground” for “junior directors”. 

Aspiring farmer directors needed to come to the board having had commercial governance experience “outside – not through the (Fonterra) shareholders’ council”, said the large-scale dairying businessman.

Armer and former Fonterra deputy chairman Greg Gent are meeting shareholders who want to hear more about their call for voter support at this month’s Fonterra annual meeting for their resolution to reduce board members from 13 to nine. . . 

Drone technology makes mustering easy in North Otago – Daisy Hudson:

A North Otago couple have taken to the skies with a revolutionary new method of herding stock on their Kurow farm.

Janina and Justin Slee are using a drone to muster hard-to-reach cattle on their property near Mount Domett, and the technology has revolutionised the way they operate their farm.

After hearing about the drone at a show in Wanaka about six months ago, the couple decided to bite the bullet and try the technology on their own farm. . . 

Conservation ‘cornerstone’ of tourism – Stacey Bryant:

Southern tourism operator Real Journeys won a Conservation Week Award for protecting the kakapo and whio (blue duck) and also ridding the Walter Peak area of wilding pines and restoring land. Commercial director talks to Stacey Bryant.

What is it about conservation work that got your company interested and continues to interest it?

In the 61 years that Real Journeys has been operating, conservation work has always interested us.

Real Journeys founder Les Hutchins made the now famous quote (back in 1998): ”Today I am more convinced than ever before that conservation is the real cornerstone of New Zealand’s tourism industry. Tourism and conservation need each other for mutual survival and the right direction to go is to take more notice of conservation issues, not less.” . . .

Making it sexy – David Anderson:

The Government has set a target to increase the value of New Zealand’s food sector exports from $25 billion to $60b, meaning there will be an additional 50,000 jobs in the primary sector by 2025.

What must we do to encourage NZ’s best and brightest to look to the primary sector for a career?

According to John Brackenridge, the head of Merino New Zealand and the leader of the chief executives’ agri-bootcamp scheme that takes industry high-flyers to the United States, the current messaging aimed at attracting young people into the agri sector is unappealing and the wrong people are involved in that messaging. . . .

Get ready for the big dry:

Vets are encouraging farmers to prepare for a dry summer and to figure out how best to manage livestock through this time.

The NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) says forecasters are predicting that the already strong El Nino conditions of spring 2015 will continue over summer and into autumn 2016 and it could rank amongst the four strongest El Nino events recorded along with 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98.

“During El Nino NZ tends to experience stronger or more frequent winds from the west in summer, leading to drier conditions in the north and east, and more rain in the west,” it warns. . . 

What Indonesia wants – Melissa Aisthorpe:

INDONESIA’S growing demand for food imports holds much opportunity for Australian exporters beyond the cattle industry.

The real value of agrifood consumption in Indonesia is projected to quadruple between 2009 and 2050, on the back of expected sustained economic growth, population increase and continued urbanisation.

That’s according to a new report, What Indonesia wants: Analysis of Indonesia’s food demand to 2050 from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES). The report is set to be discussed at the 19th Indonesia–Australia Working Group on Agriculture, Food and Forestry Cooperation this week. . .

 


Timaru wool mill closing

October 9, 2008

New Zealand’s last medium grade wool mill Timaru’s Chargeurs New Zealand, is closing with the loss of 30 jobs.

Its closure was seen as inevitable by industry observers, since the industry was facing competition from low-cost producers in China.

Wool is also a product the international market is demanding less of.

Tim Lonsdale from Wools of New Zealand says there are fundamental changes taking place in the country’s wool sector.

“We’re seeing a radical drop in production of wool as more and more farmland is converted to dairy. This is obviously having a flow-on effect on processors,” he said.

“The global industry for wool is certainly under pressure – we’re facing stiff competition from synthetic fibres.

“I suppose they could have anticipated the trend towards finer wool and perhaps geared their factory up to process that fibre.”

But for John Brakenridge from the New Zealand Merino Company, the outlook is very different.

“Sure there’s some uncertainty as a result of the global situation at the moment but the underlying demand for merino and finer wool is actually very very good,” he said.

“If wool’s going to survive in today’s market people have to invest in marketing and research and development and that’s what NZ’s merino and fine wool growers have done.

“The reason why merino growers and finer wool growers have been successful in my opinion is because they’ve been prepared to invest in marketing and research and development.”

Complaints about poor returns from sheep in recent years have often blamed the meat industry, but the low price for pelts and wool has also been to blame.

The merino industry has shown there is still a place for natural fibresbut courser wools have yet to find a niche which will bring bring the improved returns which are needed if they are to play their part in returning the sheep industry to profitability.


%d bloggers like this: