Ernest Barnes was born in Timaru in 1896. When he left school he began work on the oyster beds and from there his lifetime association and passion for the industry began with an interest in its health benefits.
He dried and ground oysters, putting them into capsules to act as a treatment for Goitre, an iodine deficiency causing the swelling of the thyroid gland. The innovation was met with some local and international success. By the time of World War 11 iodised salt had become the recognised means of treating Goitre and Ernest turned to canned oyster to ensure they could travel.
Over the years the industry of canned oysters was developed and with the introduction of air transport to help reduce travel time, has continued to grow ever since. Ernest then managed Fresh Oysters Ltd and moved to Invercargill in 1958 where Barnes Oysters Ltd began operating.