On-Farm Innovation Series: Back Up Charlie

Over the 2018/19 festive period, Farm Table is presenting a series to celebrate the innovative ingenuity of farm inventions, big and small, and the farmers behind them.

Innovative solutions to problems are being developed and designed by Australian producers, and we are excited and proud to share these stories with you all.

In our second case study, we chat to the Webb family, who along with running their property, also run an innovative business called Back Up Charlie, which was created based on a pain point felt when managing their sheep in the yards. Their story is one of ingenuity, hard work and family and we were thrilled to chat with them. They are lovely and welcoming and we are appreciative that they shared their story with Farm Table readers.

Tell us about you and where you are based?

Our names are Charlie, Tana and Jose Webb. We run a mixed farming enterprise of merino sheep and cereal grain cropping on our farm “Lakeside,” which is located between Lockhart and Urana in the Central Riverina of New South Wales.

Charlie designed and built Back Up Charlie (“BUC”) in the shearing shed at “Lakeside” and we all travel around the countryside, in particular to field days, promoting and selling Back Up Charlie.

Tana, Jose and Charlie Webb

What is the nature of your on-farm innovation, BUC?

BUC is a flexible sheep movement system, which can be used as a lead up race to all forms of sheep handling equipment.

For example, BUC can be used with, and compliments, sheep handlers, weighing boxes, crutching trailers, jetting plants, scanning machines and can increase general flow of sheep into drafting races or systems.

BUC is fully adjustable and can be set up in any shape the operator chooses, from a straight line or all the way through to a bugle formation. BUC is also portable. Therefore, you can take BUC anywhere and position it where required.

A BUC Curved Unit

Why did you develop BUC? What was the problem you were hoping to solve?

Approximately 10 years ago we purchased a very good sheep handler, however getting sheep to run into the sheep handler was a major drawback. The sheep would back away from the sheep handler and turn around, making it a difficult and frustrating task to use the sheep handler.

It was like having a grain harvester (aka header) without a comb; there was no point having the sheep handler without a lead up race.

This problem is extremely common and is experienced by over 90% of people using sheep handlers.

Charlie researched many lead up race options and tried them out, however soon realised that they did not solve the problem, as they did not prevent the sheep from backing away and turning around.

As a result, Charlie began to design and construct BUC. In 2016 BUC was launched to the public at Sheepvention in Hamilton, Victoria.

Posted by Back Up Charlie on Wednesday, 24 October 2018

What have been the major successes?

BUC has solved our on-farm problem of moving sheep through our sheep handler, which has greatly reduced the time it takes to complete a task and therefore our labour requirements have lessened.

BUC has created a safer, less stressful and more enjoyable work environment for not only us, but for our dogs and sheep as well.

BUC has received great recognition within the industry. BUC won the prestigious Henty Machinery Field Days “Machine of the Year” 2016, Australian National Field Days “The Land Machine of the Year” 2017 and NAB Agribusiness Award for Excellence 2017.

BUC’s other successes over the past two years, which we are very proud of, is that BUC units have been sold to many satisfied customers across Australia; in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

It has been the greatest pleasure helping our customers within their own farming enterprises by sharing the innovation of BUC and often our experiences in the sheep yards.

2016 Henty Machinery Field Days Machine of the Year
Photo courtesy of The Rural

What have been the major challenges?

The first major challenge we faced when designing and refining BUC was sourcing quality materials to construct BUC and finding a trustworthy manufacturer.

BUC is now patented, which was a process we considered essential to have underway before we released BUC to the public, however we found the patenting process extremely slow, sometimes challenging and extremely costly.

We also found entering the market place and being the “new kids on the block” to be another challenge, as the sheep handling industry is extremely well established and a competitive market place, with a wide variety of products and price ranges available.

We have found that consumers initially buy products at a low price point, however more often than not these products do not meet the consumers’ needs and they are unsatisfied. Unfortunately in many cases, our potential customers are very reluctant to purchase again, based on a previous negative experience.

We also find that consumers tend to only consider the cost of the product, however they do not seem to take into account how much of a cost saving product it will be.

BUC Straight Unit

Do you have any advice for others looking to solve a problem they face on farm?

Our advice is that the most effective solution to a problem becomes apparent by taking a totally different approach to the norm. In our view most problems are solved by “original” ideas, not copies of something that already exists.

If you consider you have an innovative “original” idea, trial it extensively, protect it (with a patent), work with people you can trust and consult with your accountants and lawyers.

It is also important to work out the costs to make sure it is worthwhile for you and most importantly, follow your dreams!

Where can people find you? 

Check out Back Up Charlie on our website www.backupcharlie.com.au, Facebook and Instagram @backupcharlieofficial. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact Charlie Webb on 0428 271 518 or by email to info@backupcharlie.com.au

Thank you so much Tana, Charlie and Josie!

Thank you both for taking the time to give an insight into your business for our readers. Just amazing!

Stay tuned for the next in our series and in the meantime, read our first case study on the Snowden’s and Hay Caps.

On-Farm Innovation Series: Hay Caps