University of Adelaide: Commercialisation of bio harvesting wool technology
- A commercial partner to assist in the development and commercialisation of an injectable biochemical agent for wool harvesting.
A shortage of skilled shearers is presenting a real threat to the multi-billion dollar Australian wool industry. Traditional shearing of sheep has not changed greatly in more than 200 years and is now one of the most inefficient and expensive harvesting processes in agriculture.
Anecdotal evidence suggests woolgrowers are leaving the industry because they cannot get shearers, and the cost of shearing is making wool production unviable for some.
An alternative to traditional shearing has been developed at the University of Adelaide (UA) with funding from Australian Wool Innovation Ltd. UA have developed an injectable biochemical agent and are now seeking commercial partners to assist in developing and commercialising this technology.
This new solution developed targets a key biochemical event involved in fibre hardening in the wool follicle, which creates a weakened zone of wool simultaneously in all fibres across the sheep. The weakened wool can then be broken with very little force, some weeks after the treatment. Remarkably, despite the low strength, the wool is retained on the animal under normal grazing conditions during the period of growth.
The weakening is induced through a pharmaceutical that can be delivered by the woolgrower to interrupt the normal growth phases of the fibre. This allows the wool grower to time delivery to suit the required length of wool fibre and not be reliant on the availability of skilled labour for shearing.
The pharmaceutical does not completely break the fibre, rather it leads to wool with very low tensile strength and slightly lower fibre diameter over a very short length (<1.0mm). This allows the wool to be collected in shed through a mechanical process and not lost in the field.
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