Novel cellulose fibres
from native plants

In 2021 Lincoln Agritech was awarded $8.3 million from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Endeavour Fund for a five-year research programme aiming to develop novel cellulose fibres from New Zealand plant resources, for textile use.

This programme aims to create a new industry producing added-value, extruded cellulose fibres from low-value plant material for use in high-value textiles. Such fibres are in demand internationally as the world seeks textiles that are low in environmental impact, as current textile fibres are either petroleum-based synthetics or manufactured using an environmentally costly processes.

Research collaborators, including the Ferrier Research Institute, SCION and AgResearch, are working in partnership with Minginui Nursery Ltd to combine expertise in cellulose sourcing, cellulose chemistry, fibre spinning, and textile performance, informed by mātauranga Māori.

We propose to revolutionise the global fibre industry by developing a completely new, and environmentally low impact, approach to extracting cellulose from plants such as harakeke, totara and Pinus radiata to produce regenerated cellulose fibres for textile use.

We also hope to divert current streams of lower-value or waste cellulose material and foster the development of high-end textiles made by New Zealand designers with embedded mātauranga Māori.

Our goal is to develop the basis for a new industry exporting a substantial volume of regenerated cellulose fibres. The new industry will support regional economies, which will produce and process the bioresource and manufacture the fibres.

We have already been able to extract and characterise cellulose from tawa, a common and fast-growing tree in the Te Urewera and Whirinaki, as well as tī kōuka. Analysis shows tawa is a high-yielding source of cellulose, with specific beneficial characteristics, compared with radiata pine. The future looks promising for use of these native plant species as cellulose sources.

We are continuing to develop our textile fibre extrusion capability, scaling and enhancing the position of this unique in New Zealand facility. Ongoing contact with the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand and international textile companies support our commercial ambitions for this programme.

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