Mesh developer sees potential in fish farming

Wellington hi-tech chainmail developer Kaynemaile is eyeing up the burgeoning aquaculture market after scoring venture investment from Trade Me-backer Movac and the Government.

The firm's seamless polycarbonate mesh, created through an injection moulding process, is strong, flexible, easy to clean and can be lit up to create visual effects.

It is already a hit among architects, and adorns Trump Towers in New York, Christchurch International Airport, and bars and restaurants in Germany, New Zealand and the United States.

Venture capital firm Movac has been an investor since 2006 and last month announced the Government's New Zealand Venture Investment Fund would join in Kaynemaile's next capital-raising round via its seed co-investment fund for young firms.

Kaynemaile director Kayne Horsham says sales in architecture and design grew by 200 per cent in the last year and the firm believes the aquaculture market could be its next success story.

Fish farmers could use the mesh as a low-maintenance and environmentally friendly barrier for predators such as seals and great white sharks, which could wipe out $1 million worth of stock in a single attack.

The majority of nets used today are made using heavy metals that leach into the ocean, and farmers often spray them with chemicals to prevent biofouling - the formation of micro-organisms, plants, and algae.

"We would manage biofouling through physical versus chemical means. Ten million square metres of mesh every year are going into market and one of the main production costs is cleaning and maintaining the net.

"We think that's a pretty unique proposition for Kaynemaile, and we've got some interesting proven patents developed around that space."

Kaynemaile has been approached about making blast-containment armour with its mesh, and sees potential for it in oil spill containment and recovery, and controlling and filtering water intake at hydropower stations.

Christchurch Airport is also using the mesh as a security screen for shops there as it is easy to deploy and airport visitors can look through it to see what the stores are selling.

The company ultimately plans to license its technology for creating the mesh to resellers who can see a use for it, Mr Horsham says.

"We will support them as a technology knowledge company with expertise in clever design."

The applications for the mesh - developed after Mr Horsham became frustrated fixing flimsy costume chainmail by hand for The Lord of the Rings movies - are endless, he says.

"We not only have a platform technology for moulding, we have unlocked a number of things that used to be thought of as impossible in the moulding industry."