A SPECIALISED mill to process alpaca fleece will open in Orange in May and is set to be the largest of its kind in Australia.
The Adagio Alpaca Mill is the brain child of Andrew and Nadine Hulme, who own a small property with five alpacas near Orange.
Mr Hulme is a former Sydney musician and works as a mining engineer.
He said he was inspired to start the new venture after trying to get his alpaca’s fleece processed and had to pay high transport costs, 10 per cent of the production cost, as the nearest mill was in Victoria.
“It will be the largest alpaca mill in Australia by six fold and if it takes off the right way it could be a major employer,” Mr Hulme said.
“I think there’s nearly 300,000 alpacas in Australia and each of them is being shorn each year. You will get about one-and-a-half kilograms per animal each year.
“One third of alpacas are estimated to be in NSW. We thought if one third are in NSW and the transport is so expensive, why don’t we do something here.”
Mr Hulme sourced specialised machinery for processing the alpaca fleece from Italy, where he said the highest quality fleeces were produced.
Although processing the fleece was complicated, he said one of the main benefits was the absence of lanolin, found in wool. As a result he said people were less likely to be allergic to it and water could be reused during processing, biodegradable chemicals could be used and less energy would be needed, creating a more environmentally-friendly process.
Once operational the mill will have between five and 10 employees, with a possible increase of up to 50 if it is a success.
Mr Hulme said high quality fleece was soft, with a 21 micron alpaca fleece feeling softer than 24 micron wool.
As a result, he said it was used in on-the-skin garments and could be warmer than wool.
He said there was also a large market for the product in knitting and craft circles and it was used in carpets, while low-quality fleece could be used in doonas.
The mill is due to open in May and a draft lease for an Orange premises has been drawn up.
A Facebook site and Kickstart page have been set up for the Adagio Alpaca Mill.