Accelerate - November 2013

Turning feathers into plastic

Clever University of Waikato research, combined with a sharp commercial focus, has been the secret to success for new biomaterials company Aduro Biopolymers – thanks to the collaborative efforts of KiwiNet, WaikatoLink and Wallace Corporation.

Aduro Biopolymers was formed in 2013 to commercialise the production of bio-derived polymers and advanced materials using co-products and waste streams from the primary industry sector.

Aduro Biopolymers has since secured rights for New Zealand and Australia for the processing of poultry feathers into plastics and is negotiating rights to molecularly imprinted polymers for industrial waste remediation and extraction of valuable materials from industrial processes.

The company’s biopolymer Novatein®, a cost-effective and sustainable bioplastic that will be price competitive with petrochemical plastic, has already attracted international interest.

“Globally the plastics market is worth over a trillion dollars and bioplastics currently represent 5-10%. The opportunity for bioplastics alone is huge,” says Darren Harpur, CEO of Aduro Biopolymers.

The company’s beginnings can be traced backed to 2007, when University of Waikato researcher Dr Johan Verbeek began developing a novel material based on an unconventional idea: turning bloodmeal into bioplastic.

The commercial potential was recognised by WaikatoLink, the University’s commercial arm, and the Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet), a consortium of research organisations working together to increase the scale and impact of science-based innovation. Together they provided support and investment, including KiwiNet PreSeed funding from MBIE, throughout the commercialisation journey.

Wallace Corporation – by volume, New Zealand’s largest single-site service rendering business – also saw the potential of the innovation in 2008 and expressed their interest. WaikatoLink kept them up to date with the development of the technology and later the development of the company.

Graham Shortland, CEO of Wallace Corporation says, “Wallace Corporation’s investment in Aduro Biopolymers enables us to participate in the development of exciting emerging technologies that have applications that extend outside the red meat industry locally and internationally.”

Harpur believes Wallace Corporation’s partnership and investment in Aduro Biopolymers has been a significant factor in the development of its technologies and the international interest it is now receiving.

Bram Smith, General Manager of KiwiNet comments, “Aduro Biopolymers is a great example of how, through collaboration, KiwiNet can help bridge the gap between research discovery and commercial application to help create the next wave of Kiwi innovation success stories.”

For more on Aduro Biopolymers see

For more on KiwiNet see

Aduro Biopolymers: Lessons learned

  1. Plan for change, and be ready to adapt to market needs and conditions.
  2. Build trust by telling your partners about the setbacks, as well as the good news.
  3. Know your market and the expectations and views of key influencers. Don’t assume.
  4. Figure out your offering and your place in the market. Test it.
  5. Like good comedy, success is often about timing.

Updated: 7 September 2015