A CENTRAL Victorian couple is turning to the public to help finance a yarn factory as COVID-19 exposes Australia's reliance on overseas manufacturers.
Arnold farmers Carly and Darren Noble have launched a new campaign to help source money to back up investors on the $500,000 project.
"We started exploring this long before COVID-19 hit but the pandemic has made it 10 times more important," Mrs Noble said.
"If COVID-19 became COVID-24 and we got stuck in this process again, what will it look like? What if we were not reliant on an Australian supply chain?"
Governments found themselves with shortages of PPE gear early in the crisis.
Much of what was being produced in places like New Zealand, China, Italy and Vietnam could not go anywhere, Mrs Noble said.
"There was also all this wool sitting in Australian docks and no-one who could turn it into yarn," she said.
"It normally would take about six or eight weeks and then it would come back to Australia and put into fabric."
The only 100 per cent Australian processed yarn is the knitted variety used in products like socks, Mrs Noble said.
Can Australian manufacturing save us from another pandemic?
It is still too early to tell how the virus will change Australia, Bendigo Manufacturing Group chairman Mark Brennan said.
"It will take a while to get back to something like it was before. There's going to be a new normal and we don't know what that is yet," he said.
Existing central Victorian manufacturers are already changing work practices. One group has given production teams colour-coded uniforms and installed temperature readers at entrances.
"More innovation will come because of COVID-19, there is no doubt," Mr Brennan said.
Mrs Noble spent 2019 developing a patented, blended yarn inspired by hard-wearing weaves from the 19th century. It could be used to make emergency service personnel undergarments.
Those workers need hard-wearing goods that can be worn on the skin and which can be used for longer because they are not exposed to changes in fashion, Mrs Noble said.
"We are only small (wool breeders) and everyone tells us this is a pipeline dream."
It is the same skepticism Mr Brennan hears all the time.
"You've got to have a go. Sure, you don't want to have a crack at something that is completely inane and stupid, but by the same token you don't know what is possible until you take the plunge.
"There's lots of people who say 'I wouldn't do that', but that does not mean someone shouldn't."
Bendigo manufacturers buck a national trend
Manufacturing is strong and growing in central Victoria, Mr Brennan said.
"That's against national trends. The car manufacturing industry is gone, yet Thales is here making Bushmasters ," he said.
"Bendigo's probably the biggest beginning-to-end vehicle manufacturer in Australia now. Who would have thought that? It's bizarre but true.
"You need to get into unique, specialised manufacturing. You can't compete against countries like China, if quality is not so critical and you need a large workforce."
Australians can leverage off their higher skill-base, Mr Brennan said.
Mrs Noble said she and her husband will keep pushing to make their dream a reality.
"We are the type of people who decide to have a stab and at least say we exhausted every option to get something established. If we can't, I guess we will have to send our fibre overseas to be processed."
To find out more about the campaign, visit business Parkside Run Farm's "Yarn Manufacturing Facility" gofundme page.
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