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Local Innovation Compounds Growth

A timber treatment chemical that will help New Zealand logs get to their destination in top notch condition is the latest of a line of innovations from an enterprising North Shore (Auckland) company.

Chemcolour Industries (NZ) regards its speciality chemicals as ‘building blocks for other companies to grow.’

Its products are so pervasive that chances are the colour in your paint can, this morning’s Vitamin C tablet, your credit card, the baby oil you rubbed on your hands last night and even the shrink wrapping around a beer bottle all owe their existence either to the company’s own R&D or to globally sourced chemicals.

According to industry manager Ian Dorset, the ideas coming out of the company are sparked by a ‘bright bunch of people with a willingness to invent things’. This inventiveness could well save the logging export industry tens of millions of dollars a year, with a new anti-sapstain treatment specially formulated for radiata pine and New Zealand conditions.

The research behind the SENTRY ® anti sapstain-treatment was powered by Forest Research and trialled by Fletcher Challenge Forests. The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology helped with funding through Technology New Zealand’s Technology for Business Growth so that Chemcolour could carry out the two year project and take the product through to commercialisation.

“We’d identified that the logging industry needed an anti-sapstain treatment that would ensure their products arrived at export markets in good condition. This meant we needed to protect them for at least double the time offered by existing methods,” says Ian Dorset. “Because it lasts longer, logs don’t need to be processed as quickly, which also gives cost savings.”

“Technology New Zealand’s funding allowed us to do the research in the timeframe we needed to capture a good position in the market,” he says. “Thanks to that input, we are well on the way to getting a commercial return on this investment, which is being marketed by Koppers Arch Wood Protection. We gained EPA (environmental protection agency) approval for the product, and are now looking at refinements for the US , South African and South American markets.”

And for a company whose project list reads like a boy’s own annual (de-icer for aircraft wings, pvc additives for jet fuel, enzymes for wineries, biocides in oil wells and products for gold mining) the next step is predictable in its sheer unpredictability – looking at Dubai’s date palms and trying to find an insecticide that will work in the desert.

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