A Future for Wool and Hemp Blended Products

Craig Carr, chairman of New Zealand Natural Fibres

By setting up a new company called New Zealand Natural Fibres, two large organisations in agriculture are joining forces to produce wool and hemp fibres and a blend of the two for clothing, carpets, and packaging.

Hemp New Zealand is forming the new natural fibres and materials business with rural services company Carrfields, headquartered in Ashburton. The companies have said they are aiming to ride the wave of changing consumer behaviour which is shunning plastics and synthetic products for those made with sustainable materials.

Craig Carr, managing director of Carrfields, a more than 40-year-old mid-Canterbury family business, which has grown from a small operator to an influential player in agriculture, will chair NZNF.

Two years ago, Hemp NZ started investing in NZ Yarns, 70 percent of which is owned by Carrfields, to test and develop wool-hemp blends. The partnership has led to the formation of New Zealand Natural Fibres, the new company aiming to be a pioneer in the global natural fibre revolution.

“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,” Carr said.

NZNF will be based at the NZ Yarn factory in Burnside, Christchurch, which spins wool into yarn for the carpet industry. There, NZNF will be installing a natural fibre processing machine imported from Europe.

The equipment was highly advanced and thought to be the first-ever commercial processing of hemp stalks into fibre in the Southern Hemisphere, according to chief executive of NZNF, Colin McKenzie.

The company aimed to develop a lot of new products from hemp and wool including wool and hemp blends for soft flooring. Non-woven products were also being developed and tested. They included a hemp-based material that could replace single-use plastic food packaging, as well as a hemp-based replacement for the permeable synthetic ‘geotextile’ fabric used to stabilise soil in infrastructure works.

NZNF also planned to look at how hemp fibre could be used in products to replace carbon composites, packaging and building materials, as well as in many other industrial applications.