26
Feb 2024

Fleecegrow turning wool into substrates a reality – GROWER SURVEY

Fleecegrow turning wool into substrates a reality – GROWER SURVEY
Sheep’s wool could be a solution for both the sustainability and supply challenges for indoor growers and nurseries.

Drought, floods, plagues and pestilence. It may sound like a reading from the bible but it’s just a year in the life for our New Zealand growers. Living in Pukekohe, Jacinta from Fleecegrow became acutely aware of the challenges our growers were facing. “I worked in technology but while doing my Masters I started to explore how future technologies could solve some of the challenges around weather and labour shortages. Then covid hit and the supply chain turned into the major issue of the day”.

While working with COVE Food & Fibre on an agritech STEM kit, Jacinta identified that sheep’s wool could be a solution for both the sustainability and supply challenges for indoor growers and nurseries. “Sheep’s wool is biodegradable but slowly, which means it can be used for long periods of time as a substrate.”

Notably almost all of our current substrates are imported so having a local supply can avoid those supply chain issues. While the shipping impacts of covid have lessened, drought in Panama and attacks by Houthis on ships using the Suez canal are still causing delays and price increases.

With encouragement from growers and grants from both Callaghan and Agmardt, Jacinta and husband Greg have created a research prototype and are working with experienced growers to establish feasibility with tomatoes and strawberries.

“So far, the plants have been growing extremely well with negligible difference to the current substrate being used. For an initial research prototype, that’s far exceeded our expectations”.

Recently Fleecegrow filed their patent on the process and can come out of stealth mode. “We’re hoping that this will provide an entirely new market for sheep farmers while solving several problems for growers.”

By collecting the product at the end of each trial, they can then turn the waste into fertiliser. This takes a dumping cost away from growers and provides a secondary market for Fleecegrow.

Right now, they are reaching out to the market with a survey to find out what growers are currently using and to gauge interest in Fleecegrow products. “Before we take on any investment or start any crowdfunding, we need to make sure that growers think there is a market fit.”

Fleecegrow plan to share the anonymised data about substrate use with the industry.

Next steps are secondary trials with refined prototypes, designing a production line and looking for investment to launch in 2025.

Link to survey: https://sbc3.typeform.com/to/C7iN8pEM

www.fleecegrow.com

 

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