Last Updated on September 12, 2022 by Brian Beck
Lord have Mercy, the machines are coming to take away our jobs and then kill us! Well, hold on now, we are getting way ahead of ourselves. First of all, have you ever heard of Robotic Mowing? Probably not, and that would be the norm to about 98-99% of the American public. Blade to Blade started in San Antonio way back in 95′. It was resurrected in 1999 and here we are today, millions of square feet of sod mowed with gas powered mowers and there lies the issue of this blog. Back in 2005 I was mowing a customers lawn and I came around the corner and saw this red and green machine, derelict, sitting on the side of the house by a storage shed. I instinctively knew right away what it was but I had to ask the customer as it didn’t make much sense. She told me that it was a robotic mower and that it was broken because she could not find anyone to repair it. It was a novelty in disguise, a new technology that had just been born with no infrastructure to support it.
Fast forward, 2017, I see a You Tube Video of a guy that I follow who had a residential lawn mowing business in Texas with more than 8000 customers. He made a statement that stuck with me. He said there are 5 things that will forever change the landscaping industry and the last thing he listed was the advent of robotic mowing. Say what? I had forgotten about the mower on the side of the shed from years past. He said that within 5-10 years he would no longer have human beings pushing lawn mowers and that it would be automated. I can hear the Luddites spinning in their graves as I write this, deprived of their justice against the industrial revolution but that is another story but not too unrelated. Fear not the Terminators are not here yet.
So what are we talking about? Well, automation. The mechanization that we have enjoyed over the last 150 plus years has now morphed into automation. It has been around for quite some time. You have probably seen the robots in Detroit building cars tirelessly performing repetitive actions that was previously making the humans performing the tasks robots themselves as the craftsmanship from the pre-industrial revolution was beginning to die. Automation has been with you your entire life, your washing machine, clothes dryer, the HVAC in your home, your dishwasher, ha, even your irrigation system (if you are using it right, more about that in another blog!) As technology advances, with GPS, battery technology and the insane sci-fi reality of AI we now have the capability to literally mow lawns when it is dark, when you are asleep, right after a rain storm, on a Monday morning after 4th of July weekend, 1000 miles away from home and maintain it that way 24/7 6-8 months out of the year. While this has some profound horticultural implications, as you remove a lot of stress out of the plant when it is cut everyday. As a matter of fact if you were a customer 15 years ago I used to joke when asked how often one should cut the lawn. My response was, ” Well if we had some garden gnomes that lived at your house I would tell them to cut your lawn every two to three days.” Well now that is a reality. The little robot that comes out and “maintains an already cut lawn” turns your average lawn into a blissful carpet of green.
There has been a devaluation my entire life of the US dollar. With constant market forces increasing such as labor, taxes, fuel, equipment, insurance, transportation, etc. With this trend manufactures have countered by producing larger and faster machines in order to maximize profits much to the dismay of those who have used consumer grade equipment, usually small 21″ mowers that are one of the best ways for a service provider to go broke if prices are not raised. The equation is simple, as the cost of business and the demand for better wages increase the cost will eventually reach the pocketbook of the consumer, but does it have to? When you weigh the costs of moving manpower and machinery around with a V8, during daylight hours within the limitation of human effort you will quickly draw a conclusion that there is a futile outcome to maintaining a lawn. The cost of paying for a service quickly outpaces the cost of a machine that will mow a lawn any hour of the day, has a low cost of ownership, improves the quality of the grass uses less than 5% of the energy to do so, has almost zero down days, zero sick days, produces less noise than a fan and doesn’t ask for more money to do it. This is going to upset a lot of people but given that mowing is a huge consumer of human and machine energy and is low in profitability after examining the facts the initiated will soon discover that the energy wasted on this means of productivity can be saved and used on more creative efforts with better employees, raining their standard of living and the service to the customer and the capabilities of the company all while making the grass happy, the sole reason we are in business, right? Things are going to get better much better and we will be entering a new age in lawn care for those who are willing to adapt to new technology and harness the productivity of the machines. Look you can still watch your clothes get washed in your washing machine, but should you? Participate in automation and see what it can do for you!