Plastic fence posts finding markets overseas

You’ve seen one fence post, you’ve seen them all, right? Not if you haven’t seen Woodshield posts. They come in black and white and wrapped in plastic, and are taking off in the viticulture, aquaculture and horse industries.

John West 1

Registered with Australian Certified Organic for use in certified organic farming, the posts came onto the market four years ago following increasing scrutiny of timber pine posts that are treated with the toxic preservative copper chromium arsenic, CCA. Posts treated with CCA are no longer used for playgrounds, picnic tables and handrails but are still the posts of choice for most farmers because they are cheaper than alternatives such as steel.

Woodshield posts are simply untreated pine posts coated in recycled plastic. They are completely wrapped and waterproof.

Woodshield’s Ashley Davidson says it’s been difficult convincing farmers to use the posts but he’s finding viticulturists love them and after supplying posts for a grand prix horse jumping event, interest from horse enthusiasts has grown. “We just released a horse rail for jumping over and since then demand has been pretty full on. Our posts don’t splinter like pine ones do so they’re safer for horses and riders if they hit them.”

The horse industry prompted the company to inject some colour into their posts with tape, making them suitable for competitions. If horses crash into the posts, they fold, rather than break and riders find them lighter to carry. Ashley says Facebook has helped to spread the word, resulting in interest from England.

Ten years on from when they launched their first post, Ashley considers the company as still new with huge potential. “If we’re using California as an example, posts treated with harsh chemicals have been banned and with more and more rules around concerning how and what you can dispose of, the future looks bright for us.”

Growing the business

Woodshield is counting on potential in New Zealand’s grape industry and has samples of the product in Ireland, Spain, South Africa and China. The high cost of transport is an issue if they’re to manufacture them here and export; however, Ashley says the posts can be manufactured in any country, using the country’s recycled plastic, its timber and labour force. He’s not concerned that China will become a competitor by making and selling the same post. “They don’t have the know-how,” he says.

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Finding a reliable source of timber could be Woodshield’s next challenge. There’s high demand for timber and large companies competing for supply. Ashley says they’ve sourced a supply of forest thinnings that would otherwise be discarded by millers and in New Zealand they’re looking at using a byproduct of the plywood industry.

Viticulture, followed by aquaculture, is the company’s biggest market. While Woodshield posts can be up to 30 to 40 per cent more expensive than standard treated timber posts, they’re streets ahead in longevity and Ashley says his clients buy them because they are tired of replacing posts. Australian Certified Organic clients Angove, Gemtree and Temple Bruer wineries use the posts. Ashley is engaged in talks with the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, which is interested in the posts because they survived some of the state’s recent bushfires.

The company continues to promote its product through trade shows, field days and conferences.

Ashley says, “They’re also used in the architecture world for fit-outs. A nightclub recently used them in their space. We are talking with someone who is getting them structurally tested to use as joists and bearers.”

woodshield.com 

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