Wool industry given helping hand by medical researchers

Hand held micron reader on horizon for wool

Sheep
SAMPLES NEEDED: Woven Optics co-founder Vicky Staikopoulos is looking for woolgrowers to provide tested mid-side samples to help create a hand-held device to accurately measure wool micron.

SAMPLES NEEDED: Woven Optics co-founder Vicky Staikopoulos is looking for woolgrowers to provide tested mid-side samples to help create a hand-held device to accurately measure wool micron.

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A HAND-HELD device that can accurately measure micron on the sheep’s back or in the woolshed could be a gamechanger for the wool industry.

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A HAND-HELD device that can accurately measure micron on the sheep’s back or in the woolshed could be a gamechanger for the wool industry.

University of Adelaide researchers Vicky Staikopoulos and Ben Pullen are well on their way to making this a reality, transferring technology that is improving health outcomes in medicine to agriculture.

Through their company Woven Optics, they are working on a 3D device to clip onto a mobile phone to measure wool quality.

Within the next six months they hope to process thousands of samples, using machine learning technology to develop the necessary software to accurately identify the micron of fibres.

They are looking for woolgrowers to provide tested mid-flank greasy fibre samples to help them create the best possible prototype.

The medical researchers – who work at the Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics – have an interest in developing real-life technology as an extension of their science.

They became interested in the sheep and wool industry after participating in the Tech eChallenge entrepreneurship program sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation.

“We asked about some of the problems the industry was having and where our technology could assist,” she said.

“It was brought to our attention that one of the biggest factors of greasy wool value, the micron, was still being predominantly assessed by eye and feel on the farm, especially during shearing and bale sorting.”

And after an enthusiastic response from industry, they partnered with Mid North Merino breeder Tom Ashby, North Ashrose, Gulnare, and established Woven Optics earlier this year.

It is being run as an independent company alongside the CNBP.

Ms Staikopoulos is excited about creating a product to take the quality of Australian wool to the next level.

“We are passionate about technology transfer and we believe the agricultural industry is primed for some technological disruption and growth of the current farming practices,” she said.

Mr Ashby has been meeting with them regularly, and sees huge benefits in taking the guesswork out of measuring wool quality.

“As someone that does a lot of client classing, it would be really useful when you have the sheep up a race to have something in your hands to give you an accurate micron,” he said.

“And rather than having a bulky Laserscan in the shed, at shearing the classer could carry this around and group fleeces into 17M, 18M or 19M micron lines or other wool types.”

Mr Ashby also sees benefits for wool buyers to value wool on-farm rather than coring bales and sending it away to be tested before offering a price.

Mr Ashby sat on the Tech eChallenge judging panel hearing great ideas from University of Adelaide students on subjects from drones to remote cameras.

“The next five to 10 years particularly will be exciting for new ideas – the next generation are changing the way sheep farming is carried out,” he said.

Woven Optics is also keen for woolgrowers to fill out a short survey to help them understand their existing processes and pain points when sorting wool into bales at shearing time.

  • Details: wovenoptics.com or email wovenoptics@gmail.com
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