Vinehealth Australia’s project to develop a fit for purpose shoe cover for vineyard use is gathering momentum, with several early design ideas presented by project partner UniSA in early June.

Stephanie Small, UniSA Postgraduate student in Industrial Design, is developing a low cost, environmentally footwear friendly solution to help prevent the spread of pests, diseases and weed seeds in vineyards.

Working with specifications provided by Vinehealth Australia, Stephanie has conducted a literature review, field research and product analysis, looking at the range of disposable shoe covers and gumboots currently available.

Stephanie also conducted interviews with 12 industry stakeholders who own or work in vineyards. “Across the interviews I was able to learn a lot about processes and visitors to a vineyard, and where there are risks and concerns,” she said.

“There were several comments that were repeated by different stakeholders, and one in particular caught my attention: footwear disinfestation is difficult, particularly with contractors, because there is no easy solution.”

To fill this gap, Stephanie has explored various materials and opportunities, considering a range of design ideas and factors such as aesthetics, costs, ease of manufacturing, reuse and disposal.

Among the materials explored were takeaway containers and lids that could be recycled into footwear.

“I was confined to my house in April and May and one night I realised that eco-friendly takeaway containers could lead to a material solution that would suit single use shoe covers, because takeaway containers can’t rip, need to be rigid and waterproof, and consumer needs have driven them to become recyclable,” Stephanie said.

“I tested a range of options to get an understanding of the durability and usability of various recycled materials. The most promising material for me was sugar cane pulp material. It is made from a waste product, it is carbon neutral and it’s compostable.”

Stephanie now aims to develop several prototypes that are lightweight, durable, flexible, easy to put on and take off, environmentally considerate, easy to transport and store, and low cost.

“It’s exciting to see Stephanie’s progress with this important project,” said Vinehealth Australia Technical Manager Suzanne McLoughlin. “We’re confident that at the end of the year, after all of Stephanie’s hard work, we’ll be closer to commercialisation of some footwear solutions suitable for industry.”