Research Project Summary Information
Energy-Efficient Wool Scouring:Sheep Works(ST6241-1)
Hollow Road Farms, Inc.
The sheep industry, which produces meat and wool, is shrinking in New York, partly because wool prices are in a cyclical decline. Wool is not a homogeneous commodity, but in large processing facilities, finer wools are aggregated with coarser ones and the value becomes averaged. Current scouring facilities are either very small (10 lbs.) or very large (over 15,000 lb.). Growers of wool certified as organic have no processing facility at the needed scale (5,000 lb.).
The goal was to add value to wool by scouring it organically in a medium-sized, seasonal, energy-efficient facility. The project completed feasibility work and constructed a smaller (100-200 lb of wool/day, rather than the 500 lb/day that was planned) wool and fiber scouring facility that was integrated with an existing horticultural operation in such a way that the effluent could be used to grow plants for sale. Energy saving techniques incorporated into the facility includes solar preheating of wash water as it descends from a south-facing slope off the pond, solar wool drying, and anaerobic digestion of wash water. As of fall 2003, the project has begun offering wool picking and scouring services for growers who wish to retain their own wool, production of weed barrier for growers who wish to sell their own weed barrier, and wool purchasing to create weed barrier for sale directly from the facility.
This project can help sheep farms produce and market organic wool as a competitive value-added product while minimizing the amount of energy used in processing. The scouring facility uses waste heat. Sulfuric acid and chlorine bleach, used in traditional wool scouring, were eliminated in this organic scouring. The operation currently offers to buy wool from farmers at a minimum price of that year's wool pool price. Restructuring the business plan to include farmers as part of a cooperative is being explored.
The concept is technically and economically viable. The project resulted in the first and only small-scale wool scouring plant in New York. The plant is also the first and only one in New York to scour wool at commercial scale using methods consistent with organic certification.
Manufacture and sale of a wool horticultural mat for weed suppression was identified, in the business plan and financial projections, as crucial to growing the business. Unfortunately, siting constraints limit the production volume of the weed barrier at that location. Wool insulation batts for use in construction and other higher-value products were identified partway through the project as potentially lucrative markets. These products, however, cannot be sold to the identified buyers without carding the wool -- a process that combs the wool to line the fibers in the same direction. Development of a carding process line proved to be more complex and expensive than anticipated, and this portion of the plant is not currently functioning. The project is well-known in New York's sheep and wool circles, and services and products are posted on various Web resources.
Hollow Road Farms, Inc.
271 Hollow Road
Stuyvesant, NY 12173
NYSERDA Contact Information
R&D - Environment & Energy Res