Charlie Barnes is not one to wait for a solution to come around – when he sees a problem he gets straight onto solving it. He’s worked in the primary sector for his whole life and, as a teenager, he saw the problems associated with some of the current farming practises. This got him thinking there must be a better way to achieve similar results.

So he launched Agrivolve in January 2020 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. Based in Palmerston North, 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.

Along the way Barnes says it has become clear to him that the people you surround yourself with are the most important part of the startup 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,” says Barnes. “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 that 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 currently looking to build his team to include a Project Manager, Product Developer and a Chemical Engineer.

Barnes hopes to find people who have similar values and want to solve problems that have impact beyond the customer they are built for. Believing that humans are our biggest asset, he’s excited to bring people into the business that are “smarter than him” which will encourage the company to grow.

Agrivolve founder, Charlie Barnes.

Barnes takes an optimistic approach to his product development and his philosophy is, “You’ve just got to be willing and able to put the work in and know you can come up with a solution.” He’s found that ensuring the supply chains add up can be quite hard and highlights the successes as well as the failures that have been part of his journey so far.

He’s inspired by other people putting their ideas into action and taking part in business competitions. “There was a girl that has made ice cream out of cauliflower and a guy who has made a little robot you can use to measure bovine gut health at different parts of the intestinal tract.” Seeing the judges’ responses to these ideas gives him confidence that his farming solutions will be supporting further innovation in primary industries.

When researching and creating solutions to ensure that the products are built to suit, Barnes notes that he 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.”

Charlie states he has a long way to go before his MVP is ready but based on his hard work to date, we can be sure he will come up with some effective solutions.

Story created in partnership with Central Economic Development Agency.

Innovation Nation is a series celebrating stories of innovation and entrepreneurship from around New Zealand.

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