Spring/Summer 2021

Page 24


IT IS PROBABLY NO SECRET that the landscaping industry has been slow to adapt technology. The saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” has perpetuated the industry for years, which has left landscaping far behind other sectors that have proactively incorporated emerging technologies into their businesses. As younger generations enter the industry, more and more companies are using and creating technologies to gain a competitive edge. For these organizations, technology is facilitating better customer experiences. One of the most challenging aspects of landscaping is finding and retaining labor. Working long hours in all types of weather does not appeal to a lot of people. On top of that, the work is strenuous and at times dangerous. Recruiting people willing to subject themselves to this line of work is time-consuming and costly. Once hired, there is an immense amount of training required to teach employees how to properly and safely operate the equipment needed to maintain manicured landscapes. Too often, managers spend many hours with new hires during their first week only to find that the employee does not show up the following Monday. This cycle of turnover makes it hard to keep crews fully staffed with experienced employees. In turn, this makes it more difficult to consistently perform at the highest levels of excellence. A rapidly evolving solution to the labor challenge is the use of robotic mowers. At this point, there are three main categories of robotic mowers:

1. Smaller, Roomba-like mowers capable of mowing up to 2 acres of turf 2. “Top-hats,” or add-on autonomy, retrofitted onto existing mowers 3. Built from the frame up, fully autonomous mowers Each one of these types of mowers has pros and cons, but at this point none of them is a perfect solution for every situation. However, all of them offer the ability to lower dependency on human labor.



“Roomba” mowers are great for properties up to two acres in size. These mowers require electrical guidelines that need to be buried on the perimeter of the property. They also require an on-site power supply and discreet location where its charging station can be stored. These mowers stay on the property and operate by mowing in random patterns. Since they mow the turf every day, you always have a clean, consistent look. The random mowing patterns and very light weight of the mower will mean that the property will not have mowing stripes, but the trade-off is that the turf will always be the same height, no matter the day of the week. However, you are 24

limited in how far the guidelines can be run, which may lead to needing multiple charging stations to cover a large area. Roomba type mowers can easily be picked up by a passerby, but there are all types of safety and security features built into the machines to prevent damage, injury, or theft. These mowers are perfect for rooftop turf or high traffic areas that would benefit from night mowing when people are not around. They are also a great choice for the entrance of clubhouses or main offices where a consistent look is desired.





“Top-hat” mowers allow landscapers to use their existing equipment to start experimenting with robotic mowers. These add-on systems make the entry point lower since all new equipment does not need to be purchased. While the bolt-on approach is fast and easy, there are also some drawbacks. Some of these additions will only fit specific mowers, making it harder to use if you are not using the most common brand of mower. There are also safety concerns with adding something to a mower that was not designed or balanced to operate with additional components.

Fully autonomous mowers built from the ground up are the most disruptive force in the landscaping industry right now. These mowers are designed from scratch and everything from frame weight and blade size to ground speed is designed with efficiency and quality in mind. These machines build impressive Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) right into the machine. The onboard A.I. is connected to everything on the machine, reading sensor data and adjusting in milliseconds to ensure the safest, cleanest cut possible while traversing over any type of turf. These sensors can determine if an area is too wet to mow or report back that turf is growing rapidly by measuring blade resistance as it traverses the property. Most of these powerful machines are driven completely by electric energy, leaving behind old, loud, polluting gas engines. Electric motors for cutting allow the blades to be stopped instantaneously versus the hydraulic motors of today that will continue to spin even after being shut off. Onboard, you will find cameras that give the mower a 360-degree view of what is going on around the machine. Video recognition software allows the mower to determine the difference between a tree and a child and adjust accordingly. The combination of video and GPS data means these machines can mow stripe patterns to keep that iconic look to your property. Robotic mowers do not only benefit landscapers, but more importantly they offer tremendous value to clients. These mowers are designed to

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