From Seed to Sail: The Sustainable and Commercial Viability of Boat Building with Hemp Bio Composites in New Zealand.

Madhavan Nair, Gautam
Karmokar, Sangeeta
Item type
Degree name
Master of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

This thesis investigates the commercial viability and sustainability of hemp bio-composites for Aotearoa New Zealand's boat-building industry. The research employs a qualitative approach, primarily through 20 interviews with boat manufacturers and hemp industry experts, to gather insights on perceptions, challenges, and opportunities associated with hemp bio-composites and its ability to replace fibreglass. It explores the benefits and challenges of using hemp bio-composites in boat building as well as industry professionals' attitudes and perceptions of the material.

The study uncovers that industry insiders have noted a rising interest in environmentally friendly materials, with hemp bio-composites emerging as a promising contender due to its ecological benefits and technical properties. The findings suggest that, for hemp bio- composites to become a viable substitute, boat builders need to be presented with evidence that the material would deliver equal performance at comparable costs to established materials. Key challenges identified by the interviewees include the high cost of bio-resin epoxies (matrix mediums) needed to reinforce hemp fibres in composite manufacturing and the absence of a robust local hemp fibre supply chain. Samples of hemp fibre-reinforced composites were created for demonstration purposes during interviews with industry experts, aiding the interviewees in the practical understanding of the material's potential and building a sense of familiarity with the new material.

While hemp bio-composites are recognised as a sustainable and potentially marketable alternative, their widespread use in the boat building sector is contingent upon overcoming existing barriers. The thesis concludes with a call for further research and development, focusing on performance testing, supply chain improvements, and educational efforts to promote hemp bio-composites in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.

Publisher's version
Rights statement