Why Robot Mowers Will Change How We Care For Lawns- "The Lawn Care Nut"
October 29, 2022
I’ve been attending the Equip+Expo, formerly the GIE+Expo for the past 5 years. The expo is the country’s largest outdoor equipment, all in one place, in Louisville, KY. If you’re into lawn care and you like mowers, loaders, tractors and everything in between, the expo is a true playground!
I like to watch the trends too. Over the years, for example, I’ve seen more and more battery-powered equipment working its way into the show. Gas is still king, but the battery is making inroads like never before with pretty much every brand now making a battery line of hand tools and more.
I often overhear debates about “battery vs gas” and what the future may hold as states are already passing laws to further along the adoption of battery tools. I for one don’t focus much on the environmental impact of one vs the other. For me, it’s about performance and cost which translate to overall value.
If the battery tool can get the job done for me just as well or better than gas without added cost, then I’m all in.
The convenience of battery power alone solves it for me. No mixing gas, no spark plug, or oil changes needed (on mowers) ever. They just work, every time, no priming, no yanking a cord.
Remember though, I’m a DIYer. I rarely run my hand tools for more than a few minutes at a time. My mower only needs an hour and it’s parked. Hands down, for the DIYer, the battery is the cleanest and easiest way to go.
Battery Tools are NOT the Disruptor
That said, battery tools are not the disrupter people think. Even though there are racks and racks of them on display at the expo show and have been for years, I rarely see any battery-powered tools or mowers on the trailers of professional lawn services in the wild.
One challenge the pros have: a battery-powered zero-turn mower costs 3x that of its gas counterpart and delivers no additional value to compensate. You’re not gaining efficiency or time, or quality. It just costs more.
I don’t see that changing any time soon and therefore I don’t see battery tech alone as a disrupter to the lawn care industry.
This is a 60” autonomous zero-turn mower. These are cool to look at by in my opinion are not the future of lawn care.
Instead, I think the real game changer for the lawn care industry is autonomous technology, specifically robot mowers. Not the big industrial ones, either. I’m talking about the ones for home lawns that look like they are bumbling around the lawn aimlessly like a Roomba vacuum cleaner. The little ones like you see in the picture here. I predict these will be on 50% of the lawns in America by the year 2030.
These robot mowers do run on batteries to be sure, but that isn’t what makes them great. What makes them great is that they solve major pain points for homeowners of ALL interest levels. From the nuttiest lawn care do-it-yourselfer who loves his grass to his neighbor who despises the lawn and neglects it at all costs, the robot mower is the best solution for both and anyone in between. Let’s explore some ideas.
Robot Mowers Stop Weeds In The Lawn
A lot of you folks who are like me and LOVE your lawn. You actually really like mowing and trimming. You like the exercise, the peace, the “me time” and most of all you like the immediate gratification of seeing your hard work pay off with a tightly trimmed, perfectly manicured lawn that all your neighbors stop to stare at when you finish!
But you know the task I really don’t like about doing my own lawn? It’s the one thing that still makes me cringe when I have to do it. It’s also the thing that scares most homeowners when they think of “burning the lawn.” This chore, we fear is the act of spraying weeds. I’m talking about post-emergent weed control. Weeds have popped up and now you have to go and spray them. This is never fun and always leaves you wondering “did I do it right?”
This robot mower has been set up to mow taller grass types such as St Augustine grass in Florida.
Here’s where the robot mower shines because it is literally mowing the lawn 24/7. It never stops which means that your lawn is essentially mowed every single day. This is impossible for you to do yourself, even if you are super dedicated to it but the robot mower has no trouble here. It never has to sleep.
And one of the best benefits of having your lawn cut every single day is that it effectively helps to eliminate a majority of broadleaf weeds you may encounter. They literally never grow because they are constantly cut until they just burn out of energy and die. The very best way to control weeds is with frequent mowing and the robot mower accomplishes this in a way that no other lawn equipment can.
Want less weeds? Get a robot mower.
Lawn Care Is No Longer A Chore
Now, what about those of you who don’t really enjoy lawn care? Sure, you take care of it because you have to. Kind of like doing laundry or dishes. It’s just one of those things you do as a homeowner, but you really wish you didn’t have to. You are not going to hire a lawn service either because you just can’t see paying $80/month for something you can do yourself, even though you don’t like it.
Because of this, you push off the mowing as long as possible and you probably only string trim once a month when things just get too overgrown.
The robot mower solves the biggest of headaches for you and even adds some cool factors. Almost overnight you can go from “the guy who scalps the lawn down every 10 days” to “my lawn is perfectly cut all the time with no effort.”
Your friends will notice and when you have them over for the backyard BBQ next weekend the robot mower will be out there doing its thing and you know everyone is going to ask about it. It will be the talk of the party, especially when everyone recognizes how smart you are to have been the first to get this new tech.
You do still have to string trim and edge but the mowing, the part that takes the longest, is now completely done for you and in a super cool way. And because the lawn is getting mowed properly (more often), it’s going to look better, much better to boot.
Will Robot Mowers Replace Lawn Services?
Lastly, let’s look at the typical homeowner who hires a lawn service to take care of their lawn. It could be that this homeowner is just very busy and can’t find the time to mow the lawn. It could also be that they, like the previous example, are someone who doesn’t like lawn care in the first place. Or maybe a combination of these two. The robot mower is perfect in this situation and doesn’t have to replace the lawn service provider either.
These smaller format robot mowers have already taken over in Europe and will soon do the same here in the US.
I believe the future of lawn care and robot mowers will come from professionals who today are out mowing, trimming, and blowing 15-20 properties per day in the traditional fashion. Very soon, these professionals will offer robot mower installation and maintenance as a service option. They will sell the robot to the customer, much like cars are sold or leased and serviced by dealerships today.
The lawn service professional still shows up every week to your house, but instead of mowing, he cleans and services the robot mower and then takes care of the string trimming and edging.
This is great for the homeowner because the robot mower doesn’t really lose any time during the rainy season. It can park when rain is there and get back to work right after and it won’t leave tire tracks or ruts if things get muddy.
It also doesn’t call in sick.
The advantage to the lawn professional is that you don’t have to invest in large format mowers and don’t need a trailer anymore either. The only tools you carry are hand tools and whatever is needed to sharpen or service the blades on the mower. You can also decorate the mowers with custom skins for holidays or other occasions that add a little something extra to the customer experience. Every 3-4 years, just like with a car lease, the customer upgrades to the newest model and the process continues.
Can you see how that is going to disrupt the way things are done?
I’m barely scratching the surface here when it comes to what may or may not happen with robotic mower technology. We have not even talked about the data that will come from these mowers as they are hooked up to the cloud. How that data can be used in and outside the home is yet to be seen, but now lawn services will start to look more like tech companies than just a guy in a truck with a mower.
One thing’s for certain: robot mower technology is only going to get better and I believe the early adopters will be homeowners, DIYers, who will drive the demand making it impossible for professional lawn and landscape service to ignore and those who jump on this trend early will get all the customers when the demand realizes it’s potential.
I’ll see you in the lawn!