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AWI scraps $8m WoolQ project in support of the Australian Wool Traceability Hub

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Aidan SmithCountryman
Australian Wool Innovation has scrapped its $12 million investment in WoolQ just six years after spruiking it as a game changer for the industry.
Camera IconAustralian Wool Innovation has scrapped its $12 million investment in WoolQ just six years after spruiking it as a game changer for the industry. Credit: supplied

Australian Wool Innovation has scrapped its $8 million investment in WoolQ just six years after spruiking it as a game changer for the industry.

An AWI spokesman said the company would refocus its support behind the Australian Wool Traceability Hub concept in collaboration with the Australian Wool Testing Authority and Australian Wool Exchange and other industry partners such as the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors, and WoolProducers Australia.

The decision comes after AWI reported having to tap into its reserves for a second year to the amount of $16.8m as it tries to navigate low wool prices and a reduced levy income.

AWI chief executive John Roberts said at its Annual General Meeting on November 17 that the organisation would have to cut back on projects in order to continue balancing the books.

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With WoolQ not being the success that AWI had hoped for, due to a lack of woolgrower support, dropping the costly project appeared to be a good start.

WoolQ was designed to be a secure online platform where woolgrowers, classers, brokers and buyers could access digital tools to support all stages of the wool-growing and selling cycle.

It became available to the industry in 2017 after three years of consultation and review of the wool selling system.

The AWI spokesman said the company had initially spent $7.5 million to set up WoolQ and had spent an additional $323,000 in the past year.

WoolQ as a brand has been pulled apart over the past several months as AWI shared aspects of it, including software code, with AWTH partners.

The AWI spokesman said WoolQ “ceased to function” but it’s website would remain available as an industry tool until the AWTH was up and running.

The AWTH would reportedly not be using selling systems or data analytics on the platform.

WA WoolTAG committee chair Chris Patmore.
Camera IconWA WoolTAG committee chair Chris Patmore. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

WA WoolTAG committee chair Chris Patmore said AWI had “wasted” its money on the project that was “neither needed or wanted by the industry”.

He said in the early stages of consultation prior to its set up, he advised AWI that a centralised marketing platform that would compete against AWEX and brokers “wasn’t going to work”.

“But they went ahead regardless,” Mr Patmore said.

“It didn’t have the support of producers or buyers.

“They were trying to fill a gap where there was no gap.”

AWI director and Kojonup farmer Neil Jackson said he was in a grower group that was involved with the consultation process on WoolQ and he went on to use the platform but “didn’t sell any wool through it”.

Being new to the AWI board Mr Jackson said he didn’t know all the ins and outs of the financial position of the company, or its decision to shelve WoolQ, and wouldn’t comment further.

The AWI spokesman said further information on the AWTH would be provided to industry in the coming months.

The AWTA and AWEX were contacted for comment.

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