Manawatu Guardian - 2021-11-25


Agrivolve pioneering solutions


Katherine Blaney

Charlie Barnes is not one to wait for a solution — when he sees a problem he gets straight onto solving it. The Palmerston North man has worked in the primary sector his whole life and, as a teenager, he saw the problems associated with some of the current farming practices. This got him thinking there must be a better way to achieve similar results. So in January 2020 he launched Agrivolve to develop products based on regenerative agricultural practices. Agrivolve is a platform that combines science, innovation and the best management practices to add value to farms and make them more environmentally sustainable. His experience in farming and his schooling in agricultural science and animal sciences have given him a solid foundation to be the change he wants to see in the world. Barnes is working on a variety of solutions including a biodegradable spray-on wrap for baleage, an alternative to inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, and carbon extraction from a range of natural fibres to create an alternative to coal. Livestock producers across New Zealand stand to benefit from some of these innovations through reducing plastic use and emissions. Barnes says it has become clear the people you surround yourself with are the most important part of the start-up journey. One group of people the visionary founder found support from are those at Massey University’s eCentre. “I went in there with an idea, not even a concept, and they’ve just absolutely pumped resources into it, really trying to make it go,” Barnes says. “Having other people there telling you it’s not as hard as it looks and it can be done was quite liberating.” He’s also received “pretty awesome” support from the Central Economic Development Agency (Ceda). He acknowledges the entrepreneurial journey is one of trial and error and that a success story is only good if you have somebody to share it with. He’s looking to build his team to include a project manager, product developer and a chemical engineer. Believing humans are our biggest asset, he’s excited to bring people into the business who are “smarter than him” which will encourage the company to grow. Barnes takes an optimistic approach to his product development. “You’ve just got to be willing and able to put the work in and know you can come up with a solution.” When researching and creating solutions to ensure the products are built to suit, Barnes focuses on his customers first. “Connecting with the people you’re trying to help and making sure you’re always surrounding yourself with the product and trying to develop relationships with clients is so important. It’s no good designing a farming product for the farming sector and finding that nobody wants to use it because it’s too expensive or not useful.” This story is published courtesy of the Central Economic Development Agency. It is part of Innovation Nation, a series celebrating stories of innovation and entrepreneurship.


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