Biopolymer Network


New Zealand has a rich heritage of quality biologically based raw materials and bio-manufacturing innovation.

BPN is ideally placed to secure a significant role in the global trend of creating high performance products from bio-based materials.   

Specifically focused on foams, fibres, and natural extracts for personal care and industrial applications, our technologies replace synthetic and petrochemical compounds with bio-based compounds.


Harakeke Fibre

BPN has created a harakeke fibre to replace fibreglass in composites which gives them their strength and stiffness. This technology could be employed in a number of applications such as boat cabinetry, automotive parts, kitchen or bathroom use and bench tops.

Harakeke fibre has a long and time-honoured place in New Zealand’s textile history. Long before the arrival of Europeans, Māori were extracting it to make items such as fishing nets, baskets, mats and rope. From the 1860s, a full-scale flax milling industry had evolved to supply a global rope and twine market. It did not survive the twentieth century onslaught of synthetic fibres. At one time, flax milling was New Zealand’s largest export earner and even before the commercial flax fibre strippers were invented, there were sailing ships using rope of fine harakeke fibre that had been hand stripped by Māori women.

A key goal from an early BPN research programme was to look at whether natural fibres could be used as a substitute for fibreglass in the composites industry. BPN found that while structurally harakeke performed no better than other existing natural fibres such as sisal or hemp, it had one unique property that put it in a class of its own. It stood out against the other natural fibres as harakeke fibre produces a rich colour and aesthetic that you simply don’t get from any of the mass produced fibre composites.

The BPN research began with a focus on the industrial extraction of the fibre and the Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Museum in Riverton, which is nationally recognised as New Zealand’s only authentic flax mill plant operating on its original site. The museum has retained a fibre stripping and cleaning capability and continues to sell flax fibre and this fibre was used for subsequent research in new industrial uses.

Puma Darts, a company that made dart boards using processed sisal fibre was able to do the first stage processing and put through a tonne of harakeke fibre in to a yarn. BPN built its own machine, using parts sourced from a Dunedin rope company, to carry out further processing to produce a special type of relatively coarse zero twist yarn or twine that could be incorporated as reinforcements into composites. Kraft paper making techniques were adapted to make a Harakeke fibre sheets specially engineered to work as composite reinforcement.

The BPN team has come up innovative ways to use this fibre, such as creating fibre mat composites, decorative tiles, a prototype harakeke fibre surfboard, (with fibre added via a decorative mat laminate), and fibre reinforced bio-plastics. Existing composite industry methods such as Resin Transfer Moulding, Pultrusion, and Compression Moulding were used to get the best out of the fibre. Sample prototypes include pultruded rods, glossy harakeke fibre wall tiles, natural fibre wall tiles (that show off harakeke’s beautiful texture), a sheet of decorative harakeke fibre laminate (incorporating harakeke fibre paper), a harakeke fibre dartboard and a sturdy harakeke fibre briefcase.

Our harakeke fibre surfboard was created to demonstrate that it is possible to make a water-resistant composite material using bio-materials, and to show real life, everyday applications of scientific research.

David Trubridge

Harakeke fibre was also used development of a new material in partnership with celebrated artist and furniture maker, David Trubridge. The material, a composite developed specifically for this project using bioplastic (polylactic acid) and harakeke fibre has drawn attention to the possibilities offered by new biomaterials. His extraordinary lamp constructed from the new material demonstrates the beauty and pliability of bioplastics combined with natural fibres.  The lamp design, named Tipu, stands two metres in diameter.

Harakeke Fibre and Rods for Sale

Peter Brorens
(03) 321-8764
We have existing stock of 12.5mm