Future of Fiber Panel Discussion | Boma New Zealand | Grow 2019 Agri Summit

Future of Fiber Panel Discussion | Boma New Zealand | Grow 2019 Agri Summit


Sarah Perriam: It’s one of the most popular terms at
the moment is a circular economy and I think this is a great way to be able to
discuss while we have someone like Bernadette here on the panel, and in how we
can collaborate in the fibre industry here in New Zealand to tell that
reusable story. Bernadette Casey: We’re with the textile reuse program that’s a collaborative model, so it
started with six of New Zealand’s largest corporations and as we did
the research and the trials and the feasibility studies so not to overwhelm
the system we kept it with those six corporations, but now we are opening it out and I think New Zealand does the kind of natural collaborators but also
we’ve got a really small market, so, and some of the stuff is really really hard
so in order to advance within it we have to collaborate. So we’re finding
more like with uniform suppliers they’re starting to work together within the
program and there’s a lot of learnings between people. Sarah Perriam: In collaboration
on the research element when you’re dealing with a food and fibre, Stewart
what sort of work you seeing coming through and inquiries from the hemp
industry and to egg research? Stewart Collie: Yeah, the hemp is an interesting area for us because the,
strictly speaking hemp production is not a core activity in pastoral agriculture,
but we have an interest in it from the fibre perspective but also in the sense
that it might fit into a pastoral agriculture scheme. It’s a it’s a
multi-purpose crop, it’s got a fibre component, the food component, so
it’s very interesting from from that perspective. Sarah: Richard on that, one of
the questions William Oliver asks is do the food and fibre components of hemp work well together, so if you produce the food, you know you’re producing hemp for
food does that affect the fibre quality or do you have to be the other way
around? Richard Barge: Great questions and this is the start of a journey of
acquiring the sort of information and working in a collaborative sense with
industries that already exist because we can only supply our fibre and our seeds
as part of a raw ingredient into these existing industries, so, as far as a dual
crop goes, yes it is possible to grow both for fibre and seed but because you’re growing for seed you have to go all the way through the growing cycle,
so therefore, the energies gone into the flowering top of the plant with
producing the seed so, some of that energy has been distracted from the stem
so, you might end up with a very hard and brittle fibre towards the end and so you
know if you wanted a different speck for a different in use then you might
consider growing just a fibre crop and taking that off the land after 90 days
rather than a hundred and twenty days. Sarah: What about in your experience
where you’re blending fibres the process for people interested in, there’s questions
here around alpaca, cashmere and having those blends for something like
hemp. What do you think New Zealand needs to be doing better to foster and also
invest in those types of experiments, I suppose? Peri: It’s really interesting because as you’re
probably aware out here that we don’t process most of our wool onshore. What
we like about the idea for cashmere which I was talking about before is that
we can completely process that from end to end so it comes off the farm and goes
right through the process and into a garment out the other side, but, so I think
we are all looking for different ways to blend different fibres, but I do make a
point that there’s nothing better than using less in the first place, because
recycling, upcycling, it all takes energy and generally on the whole, you’re ending
up with a product that I suppose it goes into a different category, so
we are starting to use blends of wool and say organic cotton, with garments
that have been recycled can get down to the fibre and blend it up again. I’m not sure if I answered the question or answered some questions you didn’t ask. Sarah: There’s a great question here from Bree Fick, who talks about embracing the hemp
production while avoiding monoculture. There’s a
lot of discussion lately around diversifying land use and this can
certainly be one of them but how do we work that into our current farm
management systems with hemp, is one question and then and also avoid a
monoculture of everybody jumping on the bandwagon and swapping out arable crops for hemp. Richard: Yeah, two very interesting questions. So the first one, we plant in maybe between October and December and we harvest in March to
April. So, we are a rotation crop so it would be available to as an alternate
arable land use for farmers to consider in their rotation. Again studies need to
be done on what effect it has on the follow-on crop, does it improve the yield.
There’s other reasons to grow hemp that would actually suggest that you can
use it as a fighter or a mediator, so that’s using plants to help condition
and clean soils that have been polluted in the past, so there’s are other reasons
to grow apart products, but in the sense of getting everybody on the
bandwagon because it’s the next Green Rush and things, there will be a bit of
an element of that. We do, having been exposed to the overseas markets, the
economics of what’s happening overseas has to be considered so it may be that
some people will slow themselves down a little.
That said though, it’s all about managing the scale and demand because we
can’t get into some industries until we have a significant scale so this is
a real challenging part of the industry. In 10 years time it’ll be hasn’t it
always been here, and we’re not surprised that there’s Fonterra sized hemp
businesses around but, at the moment it is about managing or trying to help with
that matching of the supply and demand in to industries where we can have a
use because we can’t expect industries to change overnight and accept us as a
whole raw material but allowing us as part of that raw material can really
work wonders. Sarah: Yeah and I mean we’ve got a lot of questions coming through, thank
you, on hemp and and we’ll move on to some other parts of it, but, to go off the back of your controlling the supply in demand
? ?Craig rally? has asked about the disincentivisaiton around the licensing of growing hemp and for those of you who
are not familiar, in the late part of last year it was become possible to grow
hemp in sales of food product and but the licensing I understand is
from the fear of the THC cannabis element to it. Is it not or is that an
industry trying to straightaway self-regulate so that we don’t get that.
Richard: Well the reasons why we had to do the trials were to overcome the fear
that the government had about people planting marijuana plants in their hemp field.
And to answer that, sure you can do it but there’s no point because
the hemp pollen from the male plants will pollinate the marijuana plant and
reduce the potency over time so, that solves that problem.
We could do the police’s job, all we got to do is grow hemp everywhere in
New Zealand. The other side was around, was it going to be diverted, was
somebody gonna jump the fence, steal a hint plant and pass it off as marijuana.
Well that’s a short-term attitude for anybody selling marijuana I would’ve thought
because no one’s gonna get high off it. So, both of which didn’t happen in the
trials and haven’t happened since so those are non issues really. The, actually the
licensing regime and the way the regulations work is a very enabling
piece of legislation so it enables industry and they realised when they were
drafting them that they didn’t have all the answers, they couldn’t put everything
in there about the diversity of end-users, so they had to leave them a
little open and allow us to grow hemp, to make hemp products, and, to get the
license there’s two types: a general and a research and breeders, it’s $511. They’re location-specific, they last a year but can be extended twice, so
you can get three years out of them, so it’s not had compliance cost to
achieve and and really it’s about your location being safe so how can you prove
that your location isn’t going to be, somebody’s not gonna jump the fence so
generally that’s about not being visible from the road, so these are pretty easy
to comply and comply with really. Sarah: There’s actually a direct question to you Peri
from Gary and Gary asks that Bill Clinton must be a fan of Untouched
World and has that had a flow on effect and how much influencer marketing is now
a very big part of telling the New Zealand fibre story. Peri: Bill was very very
good to us and he still has a very good to us. In fact the whole family are and it
doesn’t hurt to have someone like that supporting one’s brand. I think
potentially, Barack Obama’s wearing our garment in an image that went
global has probably had even stronger, a stronger impact, but, you know you can’t
really very easily orchestrate these things, they happen. Sarah: Yes, Stuart, I
just wanted to go a wee bit further in what you can and can’t talk about which
is really exciting in the wool research space around deconstructing fibres and to
food and skin care. Can you talk a little bit about what you can talk
about. Stuart: Yeah, so there’s quite a bit of research going on in that space
at the moment and I guess what it is all about is trying to find ways of
exploiting those attributes of all that I talked about but in different types of
product spaces so not in the traditional areas of textiles and floor
coverings and that type of thing, but, by taking the fibre apart you can use
components of it to provide functionality in different ways. Work
that we’ve done that’s looked at wool that’s been broken down to the point
where it can be used as a nutritional supplement, in pet food and you may have
seen some some stories about that work recently and we’re also involved in
research that looks at how you can convert the wool fibre into other types
of materials. We’re using it as a, using that keratin as a
biomaterial rather than in its native form as a fibre and then that opens up a
whole lot of potential other markets that are quite high value and it’s those
kind of high-value markets that we need particularly for ?cross bred?
to really lift the demand for it and to shift the ball price upwards for that
type of wool. Sarah: I just wanted to spend last part of this panel just running
through in each of you, my broad-brush question to all of you is the people
that are in this room are in influential positions across industry, government,
research, what is the most frustrating thing for you that you face in the next
18 months and what would you ask of industry to be more supportive of?
Starting with you Richard. Richard: Yeah, it’s regulatory risk. Business doesn’t like
uncertainty and everything we seem to do is uncertain. We operate in a bit of
a grey area from time to time, and if that was removed then that would be a
real boom for us as an industry because it would attract the people that are
sitting around watching they would actually become involved and they need
to be involved because there’s so much opportunity out there for Kiwi ingenuity.
We either have the ability to create the tech and the products in New Zealand or
we have to license that ability into New Zealand so, right about now is a real
critical time for us to make that decision to embrace, enable the industry and
that’s got to come from the top, it’s got to, I’ve noticed it’s not trickling up
with the people involved in the government so if it could come from a
champion and trickle down that would be great. Sarah: Stewart, in regards to
research, funding support and commercialisation. Stuart: Yeah I mean that’s
exactly it, funding support. Taking a long-term view of research. The
research process is something that it takes many years to come to fruition and
while we’re very happy to do short term R&D that is very product focused if we
want to transform industries then that needs to be longer term, it needs to go for with stability for multiple years and it needs the support
of of an industry that comes together collectively to support that work. Sarah: Peri, you’re thoughts. Peri: Probably our most frustrating point as one that’s pretty hard
deal with them that says the volatility of the Kiwi dollar. We are a net exporter and
we choose to produce here and predominantly produce here, and that’s
something that we know we can’t know about and we have incredible volatility in our raw materials, there’s not a lot MPI can do about it I don’t think. Bernadette: I don’t
know that I’m terribly frustrated about that much there, you know look when we
started we were so far ahead of the market 11 years ago, and there’s been
this rapid evolution and I actually feel really optimistic
rather than frustrated. I might, if you ask someone else in my team their
frustration will probably be around the ministry for the environments reporting and the compliancy over that, it’s the same for if you get 50,000 or if you get
five million but that doesn’t sit with me so, I’m not the one that’s complaining about it. Sarah: That’s fantastic. I’m just going to final wrap it up. There’s a lot of questions here
with regards to hemp, so, Richard will be able to take a lot of those away and
and of course again to be and get in touch directly. If I
could have a round of applause please for our wonderful panel.

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