Joel Barlow


Joel is a 22-year-old student from Sheffield Hallam University in his fourth and final year of a BA (Hons) Degree in Business & Economics. Whilst studying for his GCSE in Geography at the age of 16, he became interested in various farming practices and, in particular, the implications some of these methods can have on Developing Nations. During his current studies, Joel carried out his Industrial Placement with a Pharmaceutical Company and became increasingly interested in the idea of a career that would "add value to people's lives and society as a whole".

It wasn't until a few months ago that he discovered a flyer on Campus entitled "Do you have an idea that could make a difference to people's lives, the local community, or the environment?" This included an offer of a 'Try It' Award for £500, delivered by UnLtd's Higher Education Partner, Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) and Hallam Student Union (HU). His long-standing idea for creating a solution to the impact on the environment that certain farming practices have, sprang to mind. Fertilisers are leaking nitrogen into rivers and streams and Joel had a theory that he really wanted to test. This marked the birth of EnviroConserve.

Through the support of SHU and Darren Chouings, Student Development Coordinator for Sheffield Hallam Union, Joel was put in touch with Gripple, a local Sheffield based company leading the way in agricultural innovation. They're providing a platform to test Joel's idea for its viability. Discussions are still underway, and the Environment Agency is keen to carry out an in-depth exploration of the concept. They're providing supporting data and Joel is formulating a more substantial business plan that will take his business forward. Joel's biggest challenge has been keeping up with the pressures of final year exams and assignments whilst trying to develop his concept. On top of this he's been applying for numerous graduate positions and, thankfully, this resulted in 4 offers of employment! He had to work hard to develop an effective business case for the overall idea, which was really only a concept at that point. This is really developing Joel's confidence to present his ideas, which was quickly put to the test when he was invited to present as an Award Winner at the Awards Day in the North event at SHU. His vision for the future is to establish the business over the next few months and ultimately create a viable solution to this environmental dilemma that would see farmers reducing costs in the use of fertilisers and a reduction in the harmful health effects of polluted streams and rivers. Joel's plan is to test this out in his home-town of Sheffield and, in the longer term, make things global to address these issues affecting agriculture in Developing Nations.

Joel gives a lot of credit to Darren who has been the focal point to talk through his ideas, provide contacts, mentoring and workshops. Although the monetary Award was initially the biggest draw, Joel described this practical support and guidance as crucial. Summing up, Joel stated:

"This UnLtd/HEFCE Award gives people confidence to try out ideas and develop a 'cando' attitude in a safe environment - I can't stress enough how important these programmes are."