“When I was working for Fonterra I invented a device to destroy methane.
“It’s all confidential, but it’s a device that sits on the cow, sheep or goat. We did testing with NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) to verify it.”
Williams says the dairy device is “still in the commercialisation mode.”
“We’re ensuring that the device will be small, scaleable and effective.
“It has huge potential, but it’s one thing to get a patent to create something robust and get it to work on a farm.
“I think it will succeed. I’m very confident it will work.”
When he invented the dairy “methane buster”, Williams was working for Fonterra.
He is now employed by NZ Merino, which shoulder-tapped him to come up with a solution to New Zealand’s ailing wool industry.
The brief he was given was to solve the strong wool problem.
Since 1995 sheep numbers have dropped from 49 million to around 27 million, with wool production falling 5 per cent up to 2018, from 213 million kg clean equivalent to 105 million kg.
While the price of fine wool has increased by approximately 50 per cent in the past 20 years, it has been a different story for strong, or as it is sometimes called, coarse wool of which New Zealand is the world’s leading exporter to textile manufacturers.
“They (NZ Merino) received money from the Government to solve the strong wool problem. It costs more to shear the sheep than what the wool is worth.”
Appointed as the company’s director of technology and innovation, it took him four months to invent a product called Keravos, made with strong wool and polylactic acid (PLA) from corn starch to produce wool pellets. PLA is widely used around the world as a plastic substitute.
Williams’ idea of using wool is the new part of the exercise.
“We did heaps of tests and went for advancing testing at Auckland University which proved it was stronger, lighter stiffer and more sustainable than the existing plastic products.”
The Keravos pellets are turned into products by a process called injection moulding.
Recently, Williams launched a catamaran made with Keravos to some fanfare in Lyttelton Harbour.
Williams said multiple products could be produced using Keravos: pontoons, kayaks, cooler bins to name a few.
“Our goal is simple, it’s to dominate the strong wool industry with hundreds of consumer products and displace plastic as much as possible. It should transform the industry.”
A company has been formed marketing the pellets which are produced in a Hamilton factory operated by Maisey Group.
Williams has a 20 per cent stake in the company with the remaining 80 per cent owned by New Zealand Merino.
The methane gas buster and Keravos are only two of Williams’ inventions.
Along the way there has been a list of inventions and awards: He manufactured biodegradable products, plastic and fabrics, from the pest-algae Didymo and started a business.
“I sold that company about four or five years ago.
A friend suffered from photo sensitive epilepsy, so Williams invented polarised contact lenses.
Next was a medical nebulizer, which he is in the process of selling.
It’s a far cry from his days growing up in Timaru, when Williams had little interest in inventions.
“I was in the first football XI at Timaru Boys’ High School and more interested in football and girls back then.”
Only after attending the University of Canterbury did he display his gift for invention.
He has graduated with a Bachelor of Science (first class honours), Masters in Business Administration (BMA) and is now doing PhD studies in Applied Psychology.
Williams says he is not inventing, but finding solutions to problems following a scientific process.
“Anyone can follow the framework. My goal is to inspire others to create solutions.”
More ideas are bubbling away. He could be set to transform another industry: Mānuka honey.
“It’s definitely an industry ripe for disruption.”