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Pilot Project

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The beginning...

Thanks to the generous support of our funders, volunteers, and advisors, we are incredibly excited to be able to get started with a 6-month pilot project!  The pilot will enable us to gather information about our proposed processing methods, water recycling, energy use, and capacity. We'll be building skills and support, and putting our business plan together.


Pilot Project Goals:

  • To develop the processing flow from fleece to carded batts.

  • To test water filtration and recycling ideas. To learn and apply testing and regulatory frameworks.

  • To supply training for the eventual mill supervisor in wool processing skills, and to integrate him into the design and building process for the eventual full mill project.

  • To use the duration of the pilot project to communicate our mission and goals with the community, regulatory bodies, future clients, and potential barn renovation partners; to align our processes to the resulting information gained from these groups/organizations.

  • To test the market for a small-scale wool processing facility located in the Scottish Highlands.

  • To build a fundraising campaign for the eventual renovation of the ancient stone barn which will house the full activities of Highland Wool CIC, for the purchase of necessary equipment, and to cover start-up costs.


The pilot project will be housed in existing outbuildings at The Hirsel, the farm which serves as Highland Wool’s homebase, and the location of the eventual mill. These outbuildings are already being used as workshops, storage, and crafting spaces, and will need comparatively little adaptation to house the pilot project. Some of these adaptations may transition to the full project. For instance, the addition of a separating wall in one of the outbuildings will divide the space in two, and create one of the workspaces for the pilot project (which could become the delivery and storage facility in the future), as well as a farm-shop space, where mill products could be sold in the future.



The Pilot Project will process small batches of fleeces from sheep to carded batts. This will be done using small scale equipment in a way that will mimic and test our plans for the eventual large processes of the full (small-scale) mill. This equipment will be a combination of newly purchased, recycled, repurposed, and donated items, in order to keep costs to a minimum and align with our sustainability goals.


We will test our water recycling ideas in the wash process, and also test how much of the process can be conducted with passive, human, or sustainable energy sources. We will put to the test the current view of wool processing as a polluting, high energy, waste producing process on a small scale during the Pilot Project, and investigate ways to eventually upscale our activities without falling into destructive processes. 


​We will learn how to successfully process various breeds and qualities of sheep fleece. We will reach out to wool producers to source wool to process and learn on, in exchange for delivering processed wool back to them or selling it on for them, which will also serve to build relationships with future partners and clients. Staff and volunteers will share knowledge, and access training. ​If successful, the Pilot Project will allow us to eventually begin conducting small scale commercial activities, while the full mill project is being developed. This way, when the full mill is ready to open, we will have experience and clientele in place already, and will be able to upscale from a running start.​



We expect to use one sub-contracted worker, and engage with 1-4 volunteers for the duration of the Pilot Project. Hirsel Enterprises is the partnership between Donald and Donna Gillies which manages the Hirsel farm, and sub-contracts Donald out as a consultant and ‘man & machine’ as part of their diversified activities. Hirsel Enterprises will sub-contract Donald to Highland Wool for the duration of the pilot project, for an estimated 15 hours per week, for a sum equal to the Scottish Real Living Wage. He will be managing the facility adaptation and the wool processing for the Pilot Project. He has the skills and tools to make the adaptations, and will receive specialized training in wool processing. He will use his experience gained during the Pilot Project to inform the eventual Barn renovation and equipment purchase for the full mill project. Volunteers for the Pilot Project will be drawn from the directors and members of Highland Wool, and advice will be sought from our wider network of industry and community supporters.

Time Frame

Six months, beginning March 2023. It is hoped that, should the pilot project be successful, we will transition into taking small commission orders during the 5th and 6th months, and be fully functional by the time of the summer shearing season.


Let’s Work Together

If you have time or skills you could contribute, or would be interested in your fleeces being part of our pilot project let us know!

Follow along with our progress on our news page, and on

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