An Auckland firm has rolled out an ingenious use for the byproducts of an unlikely combination; sheep and coffee.
Woolgro mixes dag wool - which is often exported for low grade products - and jute fibre from used coffee sacks to create a seed-infused mat to be rolled out over ground ready for a lawn.
Geoff Luke is a co-founder and director with a background in residential architecture and had struggled with different methods of laying lawns.
"The beauty of the mat is that it does create the perfect germination environment for the seed," he said.
"The seed is kept moist, it's protected from being scoured out and it's got the nutrients around it."
In winter, the seeds are also somewhat insulated. "So we're able to grow lawns pretty much right through the year, particularly in Auckland."
Dag wool from the rear ends of sheep is crushed by a wool merchant to take out organic matter.
The Mt Wellington firm blends the dags with the jute, which holds about seven times its own weight in moisture.
The blended material is layered about 10 to 12 times with grass seeds integrated in every layer.
The finished product is 1.5m wide and 13.3m long. There are seeds throughout the mat which cannot be shaken out or washed away, Luke said.
The blanket is rolled out, covered with a fine layer of top soil and sand, and biodegrades during the next six to nine months, feeding the lawn nitrogen.
Woolgro comes in three types to suit different conditions and costs $7.95 a square metre, plus GST, including installation.
The company has been producing the mat for about 10 months and is working on a second-generation product that will be easier to install with no need to cover in a layer of soil and sand, and will change colour when it needs watering.
"That will be a mat that we can offer to either the end user, the home gardener, or a contractor and it's pretty much fail-safe in terms of its application," Luke said. "We believe with the new product that it's not too far away, that'll help us scale up dramatically."
The new product was expected to be ready before spring.
The company uses its own installers in Auckland and will be working on developing a nationwide network during the winter, but the long-term focus has been exports.
"We'd hope that we're 12 to 18 months away from being able to look at an export opportunity."
The company had focused on the residential lawn market, but the product was suited to infrastructure, roading and sports fields.
There was also a range of vegetable mats, sold in partnership through www.greenurbanliving.co.nz, and for which Luke was looking at a retail opportunity.
"It's been fun, it's been a change and certainly a challenge but I think it's got great potential ... It gets people excited and they like the idea of a Kiwi innovative grassroots product."By Owen Hembry Email Owen