A new shoe cover solution made from compostable materials is on track for launch within the next 12 months.

And the product name is SafeSolz, which was suggested by Lian Jaensch, Executive Officer of Langhorne Creek Grape and Wine Association. Lian has won a free biosecurity sign through our Name Game competition.

The development of the SafeSolz product is a joint project between Stephanie Small of Sans Waste Manufacturing and Vinehealth Australia, to create a footwear biosecurity solution for vineyards.

Stephanie is currently prototyping products, testing materials, negotiating the purchase of land for her factory and finalising her building designs.

“I’m looking at land in the Murray Bridge region. Ideally, I’d like it to be rural to create local employment opportunities and be closer to agricultural waste that will be a key input into the final product, reducing carbon emissions caused by trucking,” Stephanie said.

“The vision for my business is to source all inputs from a 100-kilometre radius of the factory.”

Stephanie also wants to be within 100km of her key customers – vineyard owners.

“The land I’m interested in is about 80 kilometres from the Barossa and about the same from McLaren Vale and then I’ve got Langhorne Creek, the Adelaide Hills and the Murray region even closer,” she said.

The plans for the factory are also progressing with a focus on sustainability. The factory will have a 1,800 square metre footprint, which will rely solely on rainwater, recycled wastewater and solar power.

“We aim to be recycling water from nearby businesses and using the rainwater for taps, showers, toilets, plants and so on,” Stephanie said.

The factory’s position on the land will also add to its energy efficiency. “Using sustainable design principles, we’ve positioned the factory so we’re leveraging the direction of the sun to reduce the heat in the building,” she said.

“The long side of the building, which is about 60 meters, will face towards the north. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so it will shine on the smaller faces of the building. That means less of that heat will go into the building, so we won’t have to cool the inside of the building as much.”

Stephanie will also plant trees along the long sides of the factory, to create shade for extra cooling.

The shoe covers themselves will consist of a flat shoe shaped base attached to a sock, which will both be made of waste products.

“I’ve been experimenting with a lot of food waste and agricultural waste to make a fibre for the shoe base. I’m also now working with the CSIRO and we have identified several promising waste materials to make the fibre base, one being grapevine canes,” Stephanie said.

“For the sock, I’m in discussions with a company that makes the compostable bags about making the socks to attach to the bases. That looks very promising.

“I’m also working on a bioplastic to attach the shoe base to the shoe sock. Bioplastic is non-toxic, it breaks down and can go into compost bins.”

Once Stephanie has a preferred prototype, she will do rigorous product testing with CSIRO to ensure the product is durable, waterproof and compostable, before beginning commercial production of SafeSolz.

The machines needed for SafeSolz production will depend on the materials used for the shoe covers, but Stephanie is confident that she can source any of the machinery she will need from within Australia.

“Grapevine prunings are really promising at the moment. There is scientific research that suggests grapevine canes make good fibres. Now it’s just a matter of working out how to process them,” Stephanie said.

“It’s a lovely full circle. I want to take a waste product and create value from it. Quite commonly organic waste is turned back into compost and that’s a great story. But if we can get a couple more lives out of waste before it’s turned into compost, then that’s even better.

“In this case, I’m hoping to take grapevine prunings and turn it into a footwear solution to keep vineyards safe.”

Stephanie’s goal is to be selling SafeSolz within the next 12 months and if grape prunings prove to be a viable option, is aiming to secure a supply of grapevine canes for the shoe bases over the May to August 2023 pruning season.

The development of SafeSolz fibre is being supported by the CSIRO Kick-Start Grant, which is provides matched funding to assist with this research.

For more information about this project click here: https://vinehealth.com.au/tools/projects/footwear-biosecurity-solution/