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Future-proofing for pests: inside Goodnature’s continuing mission of saving native species with tech

When it comes to innovative solutions to protect native species, few organisations have done more – or simply been more innovative – than Goodnature. After all, they’ve been praised by organisations nationwide (and worldwide – they’ve gone international to no fewer than 19 overseas markets), have won heaps of awards, and are continuing to do all they can to save Aotearoa’s unique wildlife from extinction.

Take what they’ve done near Rotorua, where Goodnature partnered with the zipline business Canopy Tours to clear 250 hectares of the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve of pests using a combination of A12 and A24 automatic traps. “As a result, native bird populations have rebounded, along with endangered species of invertebrates, reptiles and fungi,” explains Goodnature’s co-founder and design director Robbie van Dam. “The dawn chorus is heard daily, and the tour offers close encounters with many native birds.”

There’s also their recent partnership with the Kaimanawa Hunter Liaison Group to lay out a 108-strong automatic trap network in the Kaimanawa Forest Park to protect the endangered whio (blue duck). The group, made up of volunteer hunters with a passion for conservation, discovered a small, vulnerable whio population of just one breeding pair in each of the Kaimanawa Forest Park’s Kaipo and Oamaru streams. According to van Dam, these two pairs are just a few of the estimated 3,000 whio left in existence.

Van Dam also highlights a network of Goodnature automatic traps that were deployed in the Whareorino Forest in western King Country to help protect the Archey’s frog, in conjunction with the Department of Conservation. (DOC). “These frogs are often predated by rodents and are extremely sensitive to human and other specie interaction,” he explains. “By deploying an automatic network, this removes the need for constant human labour and interaction in these frog’s environment.

“The Archey’s frog can only be found in the Whareorino Forest, Pureora Forest and on the Coromandel Peninsula. The Archey’s is a modern-day dinosaur that is almost unchanged from their 150 million-year-old relatives. These frogs are an important part of New Zealand’s ecosystem, and due to their sensitivity to environmental conditions, are key indicators of a healthy environment.”

Interesting – and important – as those projects are, they only scratch the surface of what Goodnature has been up to. According to van Dam, the company is busier than ever working on new products and upgrading the tech in its existing ones.

“Around a quarter of our revenue goes directly back into R&D,” he explains. “We’re currently working on a substantive addition for our trapping technology which will see our traps communicate directly with a new version of the Goodnature app. Alerts to your phone, collect each other’s data and share success faster – watch this space.”

While Goodnature’s efforts at eliminating invasive pests and helping save Aotearoa’s native wildlife from extinction have been well-documented, van Dam says international exports now make up more than half of overall sales. “This is a huge shift compared to several years ago, when the vast majority of our sales were directly around New Zealand.”

But that doesn’t mean they’re neglecting the Land of the Long White Cloud.

“While major conservation projects are a vital part of our work both in New Zealand and overseas, we are seeing a wider audience using our trapping technology,” he explains. “For example, we are now stocked in Mitre 10 and Mitre 10 Mega across the country, meaning urban trappers in our major centres can easily access our traps in a store. Prior to this, our traps were only available online and in rural retail outlets.

“With New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 initiative, we’ve seen a huge uptake in backyard trapping and individual consumers wanting to wage war with rodents at home. This has catalysed the democratisation of pest trapping as consumers realise they don’t need to work at DOC or be a conservationist to play a part in our pest-free movement. We have individuals who want to make their own backyard pest-free sanctuary as part of the wider movement. To make our traps more available to consumers, we’ve just updated and refreshed our website with new content and a better e-commerce experience.”

More people overseas are using the traps at home, too. “In the United States, our traps are mainly used in an urban or smallholding environment.

For example, in the US, three out of four Goodnature traps are used indoors – inside the home, in sheds, garages or attics,” explains van Dam. “We’re seeing lots of interest from city planners in major cities around the world that are looking for solutions to rodent control in cities. More than anything, we are trying to deepen relationships in the countries we are now in by keeping them supplied with great product. We have only now employed an international sales manager, and he’s yet to spend a full week here in the New Zealand office! We are off to England next week to start a project controlling invasive grey squirrels, then up to Sweden to control mink.”

Yet amid all that’s been happening – and the ability of Goodnature’s traps to eliminate pests – van Dam is quick to point something out about what they’re doing. “It’s important for us to emphasise that while a species may be a pest in one country, it can be a protected native species in another. Our goal is to help remove invasive species from places where they are having a detrimental effect on that particular environment.”

And so what’s next in the never-ending battle to save species from extinction? “As part of our international growth, our brand is evolving,” explains van Dam. “We are an innovative technology company that’s helping rebalance ecosystems globally – whether through large-scale conservation projects in the South Island, targeting field mice in the backyard of a London townhouse, or providing rat control solution for city planners in a dense, urban city like New York which is plagued with rodents. “We love working with forward-thinking businesses and communities to help in their fight to save a species that are special to them. Being able to say our technology has helped in the survival of an endangered species is the biggest reward for us.”

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