Hot Topic Reporting season
Hot Topic Reporting season
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Auckland Man wants to turn 40 million possums into iPad cases

Sat, 13 Apr 2013

Earlier this week, I went on the hunt for a new iPad case.

I asked my Twitter followers for recommendations. 

The social media mob came back with a number of recommendations, from the trendy (Dodo, Portenzo) to the sleek (SmartSuit3) to the official (Apple's Smart Case).

They've all got their merits.

But by far the most original pitch to hit my inbox this week came from West Auckland man Ian Miller.

Miller is best known to the public (or at least best-heard) through his voice work for radio stations including, back in the day, Radio Pacific and Radio Hauraki. He has also worked as an IT journalist, which is where came across the first PDAs and smartphones - which in turn sparked his own business, Nutshell, which develops and sells genuine leather cases for almost every type of mobile gadget.

Now, he's on a crusade to create cases for iPads, smartphones and other electronics made from possum fur.

The possum is the only the critter with an anti-static pelt, Miller says - making their fur very desirable for a gadget case, as static can damage delicate electronics. The fur also has cleaning properties, he says.

ABOVE: Miller makes his crowdfunding pitch. More on his funding page here.

Other countries have possums, but elsewhere they're protected. Here, they're regarded as pests.

No wonder. New Zealand is infested with 40 million+ possums (depending on which study you look at, numbers could run as high as 90 million).

Currently, Miller only has a very limited supply of pelts, which he's using to develop prototypes based on a three-layer design - possum fur bonded to a layer of carbon, then a leather exterior. You a possum iPad case now from Nutshell's website for $197 (see picture top right). He's looking to advance product design, and develop shearing and tanning techniques.

But mostly what he wants is for possums to be slaughtered on an industrial scale.

That would give him a bulk supply of pelts, and help save our forests and birds from being ravaged by the Australian invaders. Current efforts to poison or trap the critters are far too limited, he tells NBR.

Miller has been one of the first people to visit the Auckland Office of Callaghan Innovation - a new government initiative, launched in February, which is backed by a four-year $166 million budget and is dishing out funds to help commercialise science, engineering, technology and design products (it's not completely new but built on the bones of the old Industrial Research Ltd or IRL).

"They talk about fostering innovation - well, this is it," the Westie entrepreneur says.

So far he hasn't heard whether Callaghan will come to the party.

Meantime, he's launched a bid to crowd-source $US75,000 to back his possum case project (check out his funding page here).

Miller's message: you'll be contributing to an initiative to develop new ways to wipe out possums, helping the environment. And if you donate $100 or more you'll be sent a possum fur product.

Australian bush-tailed possums were originally brought here from Australia in 1837 for hunting, the Department of Conservation says. But on this side of the Tasman, they have no natural enemies, and have since run rampant.

Over the years, they've mutated and grown. 

And for Mr Miller, they've become an attractive target.

"They're big fat lazy suckers with beautiful pelts," he says.

"I want to send them back to Australia, case by case."

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Auckland Man wants to turn 40 million possums into iPad cases