Improving traceability and increasing defence against disease outbreaks topped the wish list of a new collaboration between five leading Australian wool industry groups.
Nine months of discussions between industry influencers, Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors (ACWEP), Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX), Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia (NCWSBA) have focussed on future challenges and opportunities in the sector.
More recently the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) has also come on board, bolstering a more comprehensive industry approach.
Managing Director of AWTA, Michael Jackson, said the traceability for the wool industry is a priority already being explored by using existing PIC data from woolgrowers.
"We first started thinking seriously about using PIC data to trace individual bales around the time of the FMD outbreak in Indonesia," Mr Jackson said.
"It is important to be able to isolate individual bales in cases of outbreaks, equally to quarantine wool as well as allow trade to continue for unaffected bales.
"Previously there has been no simple electronic way to locate bales.
"It was more a case of retracing the steps backward through brokers to owners.
"This isn't always reliable when brands are not necessarily unique."
Mr Jackson said that the uptake of the idea had been quick by brokers and growers.
"In only a few months we have seen a good amount of PIC data captured and and shared on a database," he said.
"We encourage growers to put their PIC number on wool declarations and brokers are playing a big part in recording data at this stage.
"AWTA's test database is a potential foundation for traceability and integrity platforms and it welcomes the opportunity to work with other organisations for the industry's benefit."
AWI Chief Executive Officer John Roberts said there was a strong case for industry wide collaboration.
"We know that any success in this space will only be achieved via an all of industry approach to the challenge of an ever-growing shift towards sustainability and traceability," he said.
"It's something that our international customers are demanding and it will benefit Australian woolgrowers.
"The most pressing driver is the need to effectively address exotic animal disease outbreaks particularly after the FMD scare.
"Being able to easily locate and isolate impacted bales of wool will be critical is avoiding a full scale trade lock down of the entire wool trade."
Other key industry initiatives to come out of the collaboration included the digitalisation of e-speci between AWEX and AWI and the introduction of eBale where, from July 2023, every wool pack imported into Australia will carry technology that will allow traceability from farm to retailer.
Traceability from grower to garment will also be possible with an AWI / Woolmark Supply Chain Builder software tool that has been developed by Everledger to assist wool growers and their customers with traceability and validation.