Gisborne company Wisewool is using agritech innovation to revitalise a fifth-generation family business and bring stronger returns to local farmers.
Originally founded in 1894, the Gisborne Wool Company sources strong wool from over 200 farms in Tairāwhiti. Fast forward to 2020, cousins Angus Hansen and Harry Urquhart-Hay were called into a family meeting to discuss how they could overcome low wool prices and make the family business viable into the future.
The answer was Wisewool – engineering and adding value to strong wool to make an ingredient that could replace products such as polyester, foam and imported feathers. Angus and Harry worked with leaders from the agritech and textile industries to refine their product to make it compression resilient, breathable and sustainable.
“As the world moves away from synthetics in favour of products that are biodegradable, natural and renewable, wool ticks all of those boxes,” Harry says.
He and Angus approached the Trust’s business growth team about a year ago to learn what support was available as they moved to scale-up operations.
“The Trust has connected us with government leads for funding, research and development. We can’t stress enough how instrumental that has been. Our business growth advisor also connected the dots with Callaghan Innovation, and we were lucky to be allocated a design student from Massey University to work with us for 10 weeks,” Harry says.
The long-term goal is to establish an innovation and engineering facility here in Tairāwhiti.
“We’re focused on continuing to work in Tairāwhiti. We source our wool here, the operations are based here, and we want to give back to farmers and reinvigorate the local wool industry.”
Read more from our Annual Report
Horahia Te Tau - Annual Report 2022