By Greg Sweetnam
Printed Straight Furrow, Wednesday February 26th 2003
Inventor and event manager Geoff Pearson has an enviable dilemma. He has created a product that has generated too much demand before production has started.
Mr Pearson, of Hunua, southeast of Auckland, has designed the Airbarn, an inflatable structure that has a multitude of uses, including quick temporary shelter for sheep and calves, as a hay barn, portable packing sheds or temporary storage area.
The Airbarns, available in 6 X 6m or 10 x 6m models, can be joined together to form very large buildings and Mr Pearson is just managing to control demand as he plans mass production for sale.
He has designed many other inflatable items for the event industry, which led to the design of the Airbarn.
He says in the event industry you are constantly hiring & using steel framed gazebos or marquees and because his company 321 Events does plenty of team-building programs for corporations in rural or park areas, often the challenge is how to get a large-enough structure into the setting with minimum grief.
Traditional covers, marquees and large gazebos are awkward and labour-intensive as well as being too heavy, small or cold, and acting as sails in high winds. Also they may need consent permits from authorities.
There is also the unfortunate habit of people erecting marquees but not putting enough spikes or stays in the ground to ensure they are as stable and safe as they should be. This can be due to rocky ground, underground services or forgetfulness.
Mr Pearson’s invention overcomes all these problems and offers more uses and benefits to the buyer or hirer.
The Airbarns are rated to withstand 100-knot winds and are constructed from a hi-tech nylon, which will withstand the rigours of temporarily holding people, goods, sheep or calves.
“It’s incredibly bloody tough stuff,” he says of the material used, “It’s also weather-proof yet breathable and has a great thermal rating.”
Mr Pearson who lives on a dairy farm, says hay and other feed could be stacked inside the inflated structure and then the air can be sucked out to encase the feed in the covering material until required.
The first designs for the Airbarns were developed in May 2001, with the prototypes built and finished in October last year.
Then followed four months hard work for Mr Pearson, who continues to run his events business whilst steering the Airbarn to production and sales.
This has required an extensive financial investment which he knows will pay off, because corporate organisations, hire companies, eventing companies, emergency services, construction companies and other trade contractors are interested in the barns.
The Fire Service uses the barn as a mobile auditorium to teach fire prevention to children. Outdoor jobs can be done indoors through the use of the Airbarns.
A blower provided with the barns ensures they can be put up in minutes. The units, available in 200 colours, are priced at $13,500 for the larger Airbarn model and $7,500 for the smaller Lobby model, and will be manufactured in New Zealand. They are expected to be available from April.
The One fear Mr Pearson has, is that if he fails to meet the initial market demand which he anticipates could be international, then the concept could be copied and produced cheaper elsewhere.
Farmers interested in the Airbarns can inspect them at the National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek in June, when some exhibitors will use them over their outdoor sites.
Please contact Geoff Pearson on 0800 224 722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.