Science & marketing help develop new outlets for traditional Mediterranean wool

The ailing business of wool production in the Mediterranean sheep rearing areas of Sardinia, Tuscany and Corsica has been revitalised through the application of technology and modern marketing to this traditional and rural industry.

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True colours: Plant dyed wool. © Pierpaolo Duce True colours: Plant dyed wool. © Pierpaolo Duce

" MED-Laine has been able to stimulate interest among the general public and the textile business through ongoing events such as a touring exhibition of woollen prototypes and publicity actions. It has also stimulated increased collaboration between wool growers and manufacturers. "

Alessandra Guidici, President of the Province of Sassari, Sardinia

One third of the Italian wool production comes from Sardinia, which is traditionally an agricultural and farming region. Sheep farming represents a significant activity in Tuscany (IT) and Corsica (FR) - Mediterranean regions which are socially and economically closely connected with Sardinia.

The value of the sheep fleeces however has declined so dramatically that until recently it was no longer profitable in these regions to shear the sheep for their wool which became a waste product rather than a source of income. MED-Laine was launched to revive the wool business and find commercial outlets for sheep farmers in these regions of France and Italy.

Promoting production and marketing innovation

Launched in May 2009, a programme of actions has been developed by MED-Laine to revitalise the tradition-driven sector in Corsica, Sardinia and Tuscany by introducing innovative tools and methods derived from research. A primary goal has been to promote production and marketing innovation in the micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises which produce traditional high-quality products in the agriculture, handicraft and tourism industries. Three different but related lines of intervention were targeted: wool, native plants and rural tourism.

The project has promoted greater supply chain efficiency with widespread dissemination of information to wool producers, manufacturers and retailers. New methodologies have been developed and applied to wool production and management.

Using wool in different sectors

New applications of wool have been proposed based on specific technological properties which offer added value in applications such as the green buildings sector.

Another approach has been to promote the use of local and native plants for natural textile dyeing and for medicinal applications. Other innovations include the expansion of local wool dyeing to incorporate multifunctional properties such as anti-UV, anti-moth and anti-microbial, alongside natural dyeing which avoids the use of synthetic chemicals.

The work of the 30 month MED-Laine project has helped engineer a price increase for raw wool fleeces over the past two years. For example, in Sardinia, there is now a well organised network of 700 sheep farmers who can sell their raw wool for 300 % more than in the past. The project’s innovative approach combined with renewed design and ideas has turned this neglected heritage into a valuable resource by combining the best of science with knowledge and experience.

Total and EU Funding

The project “MED-Laine” has a total eligible budget of EUR 820 634, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 615 475 through the Cross Border Cooperation Programme Italy - France "Maritime" 2007-2013.

Draft date

13/10/2015