Funding will let New Zealand fiber venture ‘go farther, faster’

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Hemp joint venture New Zealand Natural Fibres (NZNF) has received AUS$1.34 million (€845,000) in funding from the government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for a five-year research & development project.

NZNF, a partnership between Hemp NZ and NZ Yarn, a subsidiary of Carrfields Primary Wool, will use the funds to expand its activities in hemp growing, processing and marketing, said NZNF CEO Colin McKenzie.

Advancing sustainability

The grant is from the ministry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF) fund, part of the government’s effort to advance sustainability in the country’s agriculture economy. The funding will let NZNF advance initiatives aimed at developing a range of new products and establishing a path to market, said Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programs.

NZNF envisions turning out such products as hemp blends for use in soft flooring, and hemp-wool blended with Merino fiber to produce yarn for outdoor activewear. The company is also developing non-woven products, including a hemp-based material that could replace single-use plastic food packaging, and a hemp-based replacement for permeable synthetic geotextile fabrics, which are used to stabilize soil in infrastructure works. NZNF said it is also looking into hemp fiber to produce bio-composites, packaging and building materials.

‘Global leadership’

“We plan . . . to develop our hemp growing, processing and marketing capability to ‘go farther, faster’ towards taking a global leadership position in the development of industrial and consumer products made from hemp fiber,” McKenzie said.

The government funding builds on a previous SFF Futures grant of $202,000 which NZFF received in 2020 to develop sustainable technology and processes to produce fit-for-purpose hemp fiber from harvested stems, without the use of chemicals.

Penno said NZNF is to develop hemp initiatives in hemp plant genetics, on-farm production and agronomics under the five-year program.

Penno said the project aligns with “Fit for a Better World,” the New Zealand government’s broader food and fiber sector roadmap guiding export-led recovery from COVID-19.

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