Conservation firm Goodnature is working towards achieving the Government's goal of a pest-free country by 2050. Co-founder Stu Barr talks about the business' relationship with Scandinavia and development changes.

Brief description of the business

Goodnature is a conservation technology company. It has a strong research and development culture focused on the design and manufacture of automatic traps that humanely kill pest species before automatically resetting.

We have sophisticated product and lure development facilities and a state of the art production line based in Wellington. We are conservationists who are also designers, and our mission is to use our skills to create pragmatic solutions for halting biodiversity decline.

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How did the business come about?

There's three of us - myself, Robbie van Dam and Craig Bond.

We actually all studied at Victoria University together - a Bachelor of Science - and then went off to do our own things. We worked at different companies and had our own businesses, but when we started this project we came back together as we knew as a team we could achieve more than any of us could as individuals.

While we were studying and a bit afterwards Robbie was working part-time at the Department of Conservation (DoC). He was laying out traps in quite large-scale DoC projects in places like Fiordland and what he was seeing was a need for not only pest control to look after our species, but the human effort that was going in was fantastic but totally inefficient.

Robbie is one of those fantastic dreamers - he doesn't just see the problems, he thinks of solutions - so he enlisted Craig and I to come up with new technologies that would enable everyone to get the job done.

How big is the team at Goodnature?

We have a team of 18 people, plus a few interns.

What's the most challenging thing about running this type of business?

The first half of our 11 years [in business] was purely R&D and there was nothing that we made which you could Google - we had to create everything from scratch.

Every time we had an idea we had to test it and working with animals we had to expect the unexpected. The transition from being a R&D tech company - which is tough, but a heap of fun in itself - to being a proper company that needs HR, administration and a bunch of other stuff was a learning curve in itself.

Stu Barr, co-founder of Goodnature.
Stu Barr, co-founder of Goodnature.

Why did you make the transition from a R&D company?

The intention was always to be a design and manufacturing company that supplied products.

The first part of the process was to revolutionise trapping technology and create a product, so for the first five years we focused almost totally on R&D.

Twelve years on, Kiwis are now deploying our tech to protect and enhance our ecosystems and as a nation we are working toward our pest-free vision. Our firm still is, and will always be, heavily lopsided towards R&D but we are now building and distributing our trapping technology worldwide.

How much competition do you face in this industry?

If you think about pest control you can name 10 different ways of killing a rat - it's not a new industry. It's different for us as we are the new competitor as opposed to there being new competitors to us. Things like poisons for example have been an industry standard from the 80's, especially for domestic pet control, but we're really focusing on the technology to do that job.

You export around the world, what markets are you currently in?

Our traps are now exported to over 25 countries around the world.

New Zealand is our biggest market, but internationally Scandinavia is huge. We started expanding into Scandinavia in June last year and went into the UK not long after. At the time we had already been exporting to France, Spain and Italy for a year and a half, and we've have now just launched in the US.

Try to leave nothing to assumption. Make sure you test everything thoroughly, from a software point of view and from a business model point of view.

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What are your long-term plans for Goodnature?

Our plan since day one has been to eradicate all of the pests and turn New Zealand into a streaming wildlife haven, but the short-term plan is to grow our international markets so we have a sustainable business and revenue streams that support us to keep doing R&D to deliver that pest-free goal.

What are you currently working on?

We have just developed an app that supports trap users to get the most successful results when laying and managing their traps.

We're also developing traps for killing introduced pest species which devastate native wildlife - mink, grey squirrel and mongoose - in different countries. We're working on a range of new concepts which will increase our ability to carry out constant pest control programmes on larger and larger scales, in an increasingly efficient manner, across New Zealand. We are involved in more than 75 live conservation projects with more being set up every week.

Goodnature's pest-control trap technology.
Goodnature's pest-control trap technology.

What advice do you give to others thinking of starting a business?

Try to leave nothing to assumption. Make sure you test everything thoroughly, from a software point of view and from a business model point of view.

If you've got an idea, test it as quickly as possible so you can see if it's true or false and then continue from there.