A couple of school visits from the agriculture sector has inspired a group of Dunedin students to save the wool industry, one doorstop at a time.
Young Enterprise Group "Under The Door Enterprises", made up of Year 13 agribusiness students from Kavanagh College, are the creators of the "Woolly Wedge".
After a visit from The Wool Shed, (which is part of the Wool in Schools initiative) and chairman of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Craig Smith, the group realised the value of wool and the importance of innovating with such a sustainable fibre.
The students also noticed a gap in the market due to Covid-19 restrictions, co-Dean of Year 12 and the group's Agribusiness teacher Jill Armstrong said.
"During Covid alert level 3, the doors at Kavanagh College High School classrooms were kept open for hygiene purposes, and our standard wedge – wooden ones – were not sufficient to actually keep the doors ajar," Armstrong told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
"So the student decided they needed a solution for jamming fingers in doors and for hygiene, so they came up with the idea of the Woolly Wedge."
The wedge was made of woollen carpet offcuts, recycled timber and rubber. This meant it could be switched to work on either side, Under the Door chief executive Hayley Anderson said.
"It works on all types of surfaces, vinyl, wood, carpet – so it can be used on anything."
The Woolly Wedge was stocked at the local Mitre 10 and had already sold 2000 units.
The group were donating a portion of the profits to Farmstrong, "for the mental health of farmers," Under the Door communications manager Amy Hook said.
The Woolly Wedge is made by local business Cargill Enterprises, which employs more than 80 people with some level of intellectual disability.
Under the Door administration manager Lewis Chinula thought the Woolly Wedge had a bright future.
"Just the backing that we have from so many people high up in the wool industry and farmers in general – I really think that the product could go a long way – and we all hope that people across the country can recognise that and just see the sustainable factor in it as well."
The Woolly Wedge was not the only product the group was working on, Anderson said.
"We have three other products; the Woolly Mask, which goes on sliding doors to stop you from slamming your fingers in doors, we have the Woolly Wind Stopper, which goes on the under bit of the floor to stop the draughts coming in from the doors – and we also have the Woolly Car Door Shield – which sits on outside of the doors and stops you from slamming your car doors on other car doors."
Although not everyone in Under the Door would pursue a career in agriculture, they all appreciated the value of learning about agribusiness.
"The experience that it has given me is unreal. I think it's going to be really helpful for our whole class in the future," Under the Door marketing manager and "Woolly mascot" Te Kahui Boreham-Mariu (TK) said.
Armstrong said teaching agribusiness was about "opening up the eyes" of students to career opportunities in the sector and had inspired her and her pupils.
"It's a fabulous subject to teach. I've been teaching for just over 20 years and I think this has really brought out the passion not only in myself, but in the students that I teach."
Armstrong said she was "humbled" by the support from the local farming community, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Wool and other industries who "got in behind these students".