Forestry FTW: tree-slashing Axolotl claims James Dyson award

Forestry FTW: tree-slashing Axolotl claims James Dyson award

Nick Ross didn't set out to design a better solution to tree harvesting, but he's taken out the New Zealand leg of the 12th annual James Dyson Award for doing exactly that.

Ross, an industrial design graduate from Massey University, has devised a solution that cuts trees right from ground level, and feeds them straight into a machine he calls the Axolotl. An extraction process then returns needles to the soil for nutrients, while the branches gathered in a separate container can be re-used as an alternative energy fuel.

Current harvesting methods require return visits to a forest, causing soil erosion and damage to surrounding trees.

The judges were unanimous in their decision to select Ross' tree harvesting device as the national winner, with head judge David Lovegrove saying: "This design is the best research project we’ve seen from the New Zealand entries because Nick has not only produced a beautiful, well resolved design, but he has gone a step further and widely engaged with the international forestry industry."

Adds Lovegrove: "He approached the design with the simple question, how do you grow trees better?  So we were encouraged to see sustainability was a core motivation in the product’s development, and during the design process."

Ross will travel to the UK with $3,000 traveling expenses and accommodation courtesy of British Council New Zealand, and meet with other key members of the UK design community. He also gets a prize package from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) tailored to his design’s intellectual property needs, $3,000 worth of legal advice from Farry.Co Law, a Dyson handheld cleaner and a year’s membership to the Designer’s Institute. 

Axolotl will now progress to compete against designs from the 18 other participating countries in the James Dyson Award. The international winner will be selected by James Dyson and announced on November 8. 

All entries can be viewed on

pressureaid james dyson award nz

The runners up were PressureAID, a waterproof ear device for the hearing impaired designed to be worn inside the ear by creating a watertight seal in the ear canal, and the Revival Vest, which uses smart fabric technology to monitor the breathing patterns of a free diver to assess whether they are in danger of drowning.

Of the former, designer Nick Marks of Massey University says: “Because the device is worn just inside the ear like small headphones, they don’t look like conventional hearing aids which aren’t discreet.  As a kid, I was bullied for wearing the old fashioned aids, so in the end I chose not to wear them and make do with limited sound."

Lovegrove says the PressureAID  could put an end to the stigma of wearing hearing aids due to its aesthetic appeal, not only to older adults who could wear the device in the shower, but for children prone to ear infections.

revival vest james dyson award nz

James McNab of Tauranga, a Victoria University graduate, was behind the Revival Vest. He says his design was motivated by the death of a friend from a shallow-water blackout during free diving.

Lovegrove says judges were excited by the vest’s well resolved design, and its potential uses in other water sports.

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