26 Jan 2022

Collaborative platform for sheep wool rakes in interest

4:32 pm on 26 January 2022

A website set up to connect New Zealand wool growers with companies looking to purchase their wool has had significant growth in its first year.

Wool prices have taken a big hit due to COVID-19, farmers are worried

(File image) Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

New Zealand Merino Company, Icebreaker, Allbirds and Smartwool launched the ZQRX site 12 months ago to try and reduce the impact of sheep farming by only signing up farmers with high environmental and ethical standards.

It then connects them with brands who are looking to buy the wool.

A year on, 460 farms across New Zealand, comprising of 3.7 million acres of land, and more than 20 brands have committed to the platform.

New Zealand Merino spokesperson Dave Maslen said an impressive array of brands such as Maggie Marilyn, Helly Hansen, Fjällräven, John Smedley, and Italian brand Reda have signed up.

"So they come to us and we negotiate long-term forward contracts between the brand, us, and the growers. And what that does is it gives our growers really clear signals and confidence about the products that they're producing, and enables us to lock in pricing in terms of those contracts that are going to be sustainable in the long term."

Maslen said the success showed the growing interest in sustainable products.

"Something the pandemic has done is it's made people very, very aware of their surroundings. And we're seeing this massive consumer shift a towards natural products, but also a far deeper level of scrutiny being paid to, not just how the product performs, but the way that the product has been produced and the footprint for one of the better description that that product leaves on the planet.

"This is something that if we are able to harness as we are with ZQRX that could position New Zealand and growers in an incredibly positive light."

Maslen said ZQRX was also collaborating with a technology company, Actual, which would measure each farmer's sustainability credentials to see if they could further improve them.

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