Industrial designer Nick Ross’ entry in the James Dyson Award, the Axolotl Selective Bio-Harvester, attacks the problem of deforestation based on rigorous research, not just preconceptions, and the proposed solution is meant to solve that problem the way an industrial designer would solve it.
A protestor tries to solve deforestation by chaining themself to a tree. An environmentalist activist might organize rallies. A town council might ban logging and force companies to go log some other town’s forest. A materials scientist might try to develop a viable alternative to wood. But what Ross did was design something that comes out of a factory and does the existing job in an entirely different way, one that changes the impact of the job itself. “Instead of directing this project in a ‘save the rainforest’ protest, I opted for a realizable and commercially viable solution,” Ross explains. “I felt this would increase the possibilities that my research and concept could become a viable solution that would benefit the forestry industry as well as the forest.”
Axolotl is not only a new and innovative way of harvesting trees, it is also a new sustainable model for the forest industry. In the past we have never been able to separate a tree on site, this requires various return visits, collecting what we need, leading to soil compaction and damage to surrounding trees. With Axolotl, we can now separate a tree onsite and return its nutrients to ensure surrounding trees and seedlings remain healthy, while promoting natural regeneration. In one single operation, Axolotl cuts a selected tree at ground level, avoiding exposed stumps. It then feeds the tree into its body where it is separated. The needles are returned to enrich the soil, while the branches are bundled into a “bio-log” that can be easily collected, when collecting the trunk, and then used instantly as an alternative energy fuel. This technique seizes the traditional way of harvesting and points the future of tree harvesting in an environmentally friendly and sustainable direction.
More information and images related to this project here.