Innovative students design sports gear using flax & cabbage tree leaves

July 2, 2021

After experimenting in the garages of their student flats, University of Canterbury students Ben Scales and William Murrell have found a way to develop Aotearoa New Zealand ti kōuka (cabbage tree) and harakeke (flax) into new natural composite materials.

Scales, 21, is studying towards a Bachelor of Product Design and Bachelor of Commerce, and Murrell, 20, is a Bachelor of Product Design student.

Their plan is to use these to create high-performance sports gear like skis, snowboards, kayaks and skateboards.

They have just finished their first working prototype, a harakeke biocomposite skateboard made from recycled polylactic acid (PLA) derived from corn starch and harakeke fibre, and they hope to have other prototypes under way next year.

“We’re making a brand new material from a natural source and the potential uses it has are pretty unlimited,” Scales says. “This first product is just a glimpse of the future possibilities from a revived harakeke industry.”

There’s growing demand for using recycled, sustainable materials, and Ben and William are tapping into the market – they’ve set up their own company, KiwiFibre, and have already had interest in their products from international corps.

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