Hard yards lead to business boon

By Peter de Graaf

A Far North inventor can thank his ridiculously steep section for inspiring a unique business venture.

Steve Baldry lives at Totara North, by the Whangaroa Harbour, on a precipitous section with no vehicle access.

Sick of lugging anything and everything uphill to his home, he invented an electric wheelbarrow to do the hard yards for him.

It proved such a boon at home he was amazed to find no one else had patented, or was making, electric wheelbarrows. He set up a company (Yardlab, his name backwards with an extra vowel), won an international patent and set about filling the gap in the market.

"I came up with concept model at home, and go so excited about it I just had to keep going. It seemed such a basic thing I was surprised no one else had patented it.''

The former earthworks contractor built the prototypes in his Kaitaia workshop and, after two years of testing and refining, commercial production started in December 2011 at New Zealand Wheelbarrows in Thames.

His electric barrow comes in three models aimed at home gardeners, tradesmen and brickies, and is powered by a 48 Volt, 500 Watt hub motor with a plug-in charger.

It is controlled by a thumb throttle and has regenerative braking, so applying the brake while carting loads downhill recharges the battery. With the motor off it freewheels like an ordinary wheelbarrow.

Most of his sales so far had been in the South Island, where it was popular with lifestylers, contractors and the equestrian set.

Mr Baldry said some councils were interested because of health and safety rules limiting the loads workers were allowed to carry, and orders were pending across the Tasman. However, if business took off in Australia production would have to shift to China.

The barrow retailed for just over $1000 with about 60 sold so far, but Mr Baldry hoped that was just the beginning.


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