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Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants

Interview

Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants

Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants

Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants was created on 14th March 1930 and its aim is to conduct research on Natural fibres aiming in provide high quality raw materials for the textile industry and to promote natural fibres as an excellent raw materials for healthy apparels and house textiles. In this newsletter edition we interviewed prof. Ryszard M. Kozlowski*, Deputy Director for Science of the Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants in Poznań in order to know the outline of this organization.

How do you present the Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (what is the mission, values, vision)?
The Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (INF&MP), officially IWNiRZ, has conducted research for almost 90 years in the area of natural fibrous plants: breeding, cultivation, harvesting, primary processing and multifunctional area of application in textiles, technical textiles, composites, by-products utilization and also in breeding, cultivation and novel application of medicinal and herbal plants. The Institute has six experimental agriculture farms and one unique primary processing experimental mill. We run the genebank of fibrous plants – flax, hemp and medicinal plants as well as the International Bank of Natural Fibres with hundreds of different natural fibres samples collected from the whole world. Our mission is to conduct the interdisciplinary research connected with economically viable production of flax, hemp, linseed, and hemp cultivars for seed purposes production as well as herbal and medicinal plants. The Institute also operates the Market Research Point where all currently developed products are evaluated by customers. INF&MP is editing the unique world bi-monthly Journal of Natural Fibers (published by Taylor&Francis Group, USA), quarterly published Herba Polonica journal and EUROFLAX Newsletter (FAO/ESCORENA). The Institute has two enterprises: LENKRAJ Ltd. – responsible for production and delivery of flax seeds for oil production at the INF&MP and PLANTINOVA Ltd., established in 2014. The role is to promote and commercialize the achievements of INF&MP such as know-how, patents, technologies and services of laboratories, using e.g. an effective business communication tool. The key task of this enterprise, with a team experienced in technology transfer processes, is to initiate and implement commercialization processes both in the scope of popular forms of licensing or sales, and more complex forms such as SPIN-OFF companies.

The Institute co-operates with a very wide set of the world organizations and centres in the area of natural fibres, including universities and research centres in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. The Institute employ about 200 experts, including high ranking specialists in the area of natural fibres knowledge. The Institute issued the “Handbook of Natural Fibres”, published by Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge, UK in 2012, and recently in July 2017: a book “Natural Fibers: Properties, Mechanical Behavior, Functionalization and Applications” published by NOVA Science Publishers, INC., Hauppauge, USA.

When was this institute created? Why did you decide to create this institute?
The Institute was created on 14 March 1930 in Vilnius. Polish government authorities in the new independent Poland decided that land of Poland has not only to feed people and also should deliver fibrous raw materials for cloth and house hold textiles. After World War II, the Institute was moved from Vilnius to Poznań, located in West Poland. That was time that where man-made fibres began to be introduced to textile market.

What is the main goal of this organisation?
The main goal the Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants in Poznań, Poland is to conduct research on Natural fibres aiming in provide high quality raw materials for the textile industry (with economic analysis) such as flax and hemp also domestic wool and locally produced silk. Now the Institute is a very important chain in world tendency production of green renewable natural fibrous resources and develop in a competitive way to carry on research on natural fibres and medicinal plants to develop diversified products and also the staff of INF&MP is teaching students at the University of Life Science, as well as foreign students. The INF&MP applies for R&D projects and grants and we participate in many domestic and international projects.

Our aim is also to promote natural fibres as an excellent raw materials for healthy apparels and house textiles. The Institute of Natural Fibres contributed actively to the celebrations of the International Year of Natural Fibres 2009 (IYNF 2009), suggested by the 33rd Session of FAO Conference, on 19 to 26 November 2005 and declared the United Nations.

The objectives of the IYNF were:

  • To raise awareness of these fibres, both of their importance to the agricultural communities that produce them, and of the health/welfare and environmental benefits of producing and consuming them;
  • To promote the efficiency and sustainability of the natural fibres industries by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and the results of experience at the international and national levels.
  • To foster an effective international partnership among the various natural fibres industries and other relevant parties which will participate in the celebration of the IYNF, and which will be sustained to function actively in the future. The wonderful website created in 2009 still operates and is performed on the link: http://naturalfibres2009.org/

The Discover Natural Fibres Initiative, created initially under FAO umbrella and derived from the fruits of IYNF 2009 activities, has developed and conducts fruitful activity with the involvement of several institutions dealing with natural fibres, including INF&MP.

Why did you decide to work with natural fibres? Which are the potentialities associated to these fibres?
When I graduated from the faculty of applied chemistry of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań in 1961, I have contacted the Institute of Bast Fibres Crops (previous name of INF&MP) because the management had to solve the problem of utilizing shives which are buy-product of the processing linen and hemp. The idea was to develop composites – particleboards and I got involved in this problem area.

At the beginning of my work I was not convinced that natural fibres had any promising future. In 60’ties and 70’ties people were fascinated by man-made fibres and products derived from them. But, by the end of 1980 and 1990 this consciousness started the change and more people started looking forward to utilize natural fibres and relevant products. In 2000 and 2003 we hosted at INF Prof. Hiromi Tokura from Nara University in Japan, who convinced us to start research on healthy behavior of the human body under the influence of cloth, underwear and bed linen based on natural fibres versus man-made fibres.

Nowadays is a big cries and critics of such fibres like polyester which bring terrible pollution (small micro and nano-fibres are released during washing process) and they are dangerous for all animals and people on the globe. Now the situation is completely changed, great interest is observed in natural fibres, including bast plants, such as cannabis sativa and also in marijuana hemp. So many smart companies are making good business in scope of medicinal area of applying cannabinoids and essential oils, which can be obtained from flowering panicles of cannabis plants.

When was the partnership with the University of Minho born?
About 2000 we started taking an active part in COST Action 847 Textile Quality and Biotechnology, together with many international partners, including representative of Minho University – Prof. Dr. Artur Cavaco-Paulo. The results of the joint research were published in the book “Biotechnology in Textile Processing”, edited by Georg M. Guebitz, Artur Cavaco-Paulo and Ryszard Kozlowski in October 28, 2006.

Next the University of Minho started to organize the cyclic ICNF – International Conference on Natural Fibers, which is excellently organized by the team of the Minho University and Dr. Raul Fangueiro and the team. Natural Fibers Innovation Forum meeting took part during the ICNF 2017 conference in Braga in June 2017, and the experts discussed the idea to create a World Association of Natural Fibers Research.

Do you consider that natural fibres are the fibres of the future? Why?
YES, natural fibres are the fibres of the future, because they are renewable, sustainable, the most human –friendly and eco-friendly fibres in our environment.

I am convinced that between natural and man-made fibres exist, and should be coexistence and competition in scope of quality and not creating any pollution to the environment.

The development in research and different modern technologies of the production and processing natural fibres is creating the new areas of their application. In my opinion exploring the potential of natural fibres can help develop the rural areas of our globe, especially poor regions where there is the abundance of diversified fibres. As the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Natural Fibers I have observed recently that significant submission of articles dealing with research on quite new, not explored species of natural fibres and their potential applications.

*This interview was prepared by Prof. Dr. Ryszard M. Kozlowski, Deputy Director for Science of the Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants in Poznań, and Maria Mackiewicz-Talarczyk, MSc, Eng, assistant to Professor Kozlowski, Secretary of ESCORENA Focal Point.
Date: July/2017

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