During an annual review of 250 current research projects being carried out by Universities, Crown Research Organisations and Research Associations under the stewardship of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, a preliminary RAGG (Red, Amber, Green, Gold) assessment gave LASRA ‘Green Status’ on two of its projects, which are looking at improving the physical properties of leathers through treatment with novel nano-reagents and improving the value of cattle hides from the identification and mitigation of a fault known as looseness which affects as much as 7% of all hides and causes them to be devalued or rejected when converted to leather. Whilst both projects are in their early stages, a green status shows that they are both performing to expectation. The final project assessed was the Ovine Consortium, a collaboration between MBIE and LASRA’s Membership which is two years from completion and aims to improve the strength of lambskin leather so it is suitable for lightweight footwear, not just fashion-dependant clothing. This project achieved ‘Gold Status’ in the review, identifying it as performing above expectation.
Only 18 projects nation-wide achieved ‘Gold Status’ this year. The achievement is a reflection of the high quality of research being conducted by LASRA and its research collaborators on this project, which is creating new understanding of the structure and chemistry of lambskin and identifying processing techniques to retain and enhance the properties of lambskin in the resulting leather.
A significant outcome from the project is the patent-pending “SAFE” process for the enzymatic dewooling of sheep skins, which avoids the usual issues of surface damage and retains more of the skins intrinsic strength, and leads the way towards new, efficient processing methods for leather, with huge potential gains for the environmental sustainability of the industry. A further spin-off from the research is an expansion of LASRA’s capability through the development of a number of new techniques, which have opened up new understanding of conventional leather processing as well as the new “SAFE” process. The research has the full support of New Zealand skin processors, who are already benefitting from outcomes from this valuable research.