One of Australia’s largest agri-services business and independent wool brokers AWN has announced the acquisition of a 10.1 per cent shareholding in the New Zealand Merino Company. The NSW-based AWN first formed a partnership with NZMC in 2018 with the aim of giving international wool buyers more choice in what the companies’ bill as “ethically sourced, sustainable Merino fibre”. The recent acquisition of shares announced on December 20 advances AWN to become the largest shareholder in the Christchurch-based international marketer and seller of ethical wool and various innovations across the primary sector. Touted as the global leader in the marketing and sales of ethical wool, the 2001-registered New Zealand Merino Company is led by chief executive John Brakenridge. The company’s ZQ program established in 2006 was hailed as the world’s leading ethical wool standard, setting the highest standards for fibre quality, animal welfare, and environmental and social responsibility. ZQ represents the wool of choice for world-class brands that are serious about producing amazing natural products and is only available to growers through long-term supply agreement contracts. The program aims to establish strong relationships with high value industry partners, from scourers and yarn spinners to manufacturers and retailers. Following the success of the ZQ program, NZMC launched ZQRX in 2020, a regenerative agriculture index that helps wool producers continuously improve human, animal, and environmental outcomes, targeting the effects of global issues, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity through regenerative practices. NZMC chairwoman Kate Morrison welcomed AWN to the NZMC share register. “AWN has been an important strategic partner of NZMC for a number of years and a key component in our strategy for a greater presence in the Australian market,” she said. “We see this move by AWN as a strong endorsement of the NZMC business and our ZQRX initiative in particular.” AWN managing director John Colley said that acquisition was of strategic significance to both AWN and Australian woolgrowers. “We see the value that NZMC and its ZQ and ZQRX programs will deliver not only to our business, but to the businesses of thousands of woolgrowers across Australia,” he said. “We know that there is an increasing demand for ethical, sustainable, and now regenerative agriculture globally, and for producers who have or are looking to go down those paths, AWN offers the pathway through our alliance with NZMC and its ZQ and ZQRX programs.” Founded in 1999, AWN has a track record of delivering innovative wool-marketing programs that connect woolgrowers to processors and brands. It grew rapidly to become the largest independent wool broker in Australia. AWN expanded into WA in 2020, based at Bibra Lake and trading in wool and livestock sales with plans to replicate its east coast wool, livestock and property business. Mr Colley said AWN’s expansion into WA was a natural progression for the growth-focused business. In recent years, AWN has widened its focus to provide diversified agri-services. Now one of the fastest-growing agri-services providers, AWN offers its services at an increasing number of locations across rural Australia.