IWTO discuss Exploring the World of Wool Rope - blog imageThe aquaculture and mariculture industry make extensive use of rope in their daily operations. Consider seaweed farming, for example, which uses submerged frames with ropes placed in parallel across them.

One of the primary problems with this method is that the ropes are usually made of polypropylene and other plastics. The reduction of plastic pollution is an important environmental objective, so the use of these materials in the ocean is highly undesirable. Thankfully, the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) is happy to report, a new alternative that includes only natural fibres has been developed to replace plastic ropes in aqua- and mariculture.

Introducing Sustainable Rope

In response to the need for an eco-friendly alternative in mariculture, British sheep farmer and wool producer Kate Drury offered an ingenious – and completely natural and bio-degradable innovation: woollen rope. Her company, Sustainable Rope, now produces quality rope specifically for seaweed farming.

“I came to understand the essential transition we must make to natural products to assist ecosystem renewal as quickly as possible,” says Drury. “Wool is a biogenic resource that can be deployed to assist with this. In the last year I have set up a business manufacturing commercial wool rope and working on a PhD to capture its characteristics and potential.”

Testing on the initial 18mm-diameter ropes have proven highly successful. The ropes are put to use in salt water for periods of 90, 180 and 270 days. More trials have followed with 6mm and 14mm ropes. In addition to showing tremendous durability and robustness in the ocean environment, the natural fibre ropes have also been found to be conducive to sustaining marine life. Seaweed grows exceptionally well on them. The ropes also attract a wealth of other small lifeforms.

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Wool Helps – Yet Again – In Alleviating The Climate Crisis

According to Drury, seaweed collects nitrogen. This means it can soak up the high nitrate content found in water that has been polluted by fertiliser and other industries. Seaweed farms thus make a significant contribution to sustainability and carbon reduction. With the introduction of wool rope, seaweed farming is now even more sustainable. What’s more, if the wool ropes used in seaweed farming are discarded, they will simply biodegrade, causing no harm to the environment.

Bonus: producing wool ropes is great news for wool producers and farmers, because it uses wool for which they may otherwise have difficulty finding a market. The new development in wool production is thus an exciting development for the seaweed industry, the wool industry, and environmentalists.

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