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Inspired By The Strength Of Nature

KiwiFibre was founded in Christchurch in 2020 by University of Canterbury mates Ben Scales and William Murrell. Frustrated with fibreglass and inspired by the strength of nature from their childhoods building treehouses, they set out to blend nature and engineering to solve global problems.

We talked to co-founder Ben Scales about KiwiFibre’s vision to build a world where natural, renewable resources solve environmental problems and drive humanity forward.

In a nutshell, what does KiwiFibre do?

Essentially, we turn New Zealand Harakeke flax into things like race cars, snowboards and boats. Harakeke acts as a carbon fibre replacement. But with different properties, it solves some of the technical and environmental problems of global industries.

What are some of the strengths of your products, applied to an industry like motorsport?

The properties of KiwiFibre and natural fibre composites in general really do suit motorsport quite well. Properties like vibration damping, energy absorption, radio transparency and the fact it won’t crack so easily upon contact.

Sustainability seems to be at the heart of your business?

The harakeke industry that we're building right now has the potential to be the most sustainable industry in the world. The fact that we can solve environmental and technical problems in so many different industries add to our strength and mission.

Harakeke is a 100% regenerative crop and is well known for its carbon sequestration abilities – it's able to absorb and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. It's also perennial – you don’t have to replant it.

How does the Christchurch innovation ecosystem support you?

The Christchurch innovation ecosystem has been simply fantastic for us. It allowed us to get from nothing while we're at university to where we are today. Some of our first customers were ones that we were just able to knock on the door of, just down the road.

When you’re a start-up, the most important thing is getting products to customers and understanding what to fix, what to iterate on and what to innovate on because resources are scarce. And in Christchurch, you're able to do that by literally going down the road to a ski manufacturer or a kayak manufacturer. Our local partners have been amazing. They’re onboard with the vision, they’re super approachable and they just want to be part of it. That’s pretty unique about Christchurch.

So you think we have a great startup culture in Ōtautahi Christchurch?

There's some fantastic startups and innovation here – we could be New Zealand's San Francisco, right here in the South Pacific. There’s a lot going on, including space tech and ag tech companies. It’s very inspiring.