Best Practices

Michael Mayberry on Robotic Mowers!

May 1, 2024
5 mins


Shivang Shukla
At a glance

I’m finally back in the United States.

I’ll be attending conferences all over the country, meeting with the guys who run the show, observing the processes up close, and as always, looking for opportunities for improvement. 📈

Talking of improvements, we’ve come a long way when it comes to landscaping tech, haven’t we? Yeah, I’m talking about robotic mowers. Man they’re getting better and better.

Pioneers like Level Green Landscaping have already started testing out these robotic mowers and I got the inside scoop from Michael Mayberry, CTO at Level Green, and my co-host at Beer Chai Future podcast on YouTube.

Here’s what Mike said about his experience in my own lightly edited words.

So, you're trying out some robotic mowers? 🧐

We are. We've deployed Husqvarna's little Roomba mowers on some of our sites. So we're definitely all in on robotics, we understand the benefits that it's going to bring in the future.

Ideally, should the small mowers even be considered right for commercial companies? 🤔

I would say that with commercial companies, you need to really identify the proper place to put a Roomba type mower. Just because you're a commercial landscaper doesn't mean that these mowers don't have any benefit to you.

We have deployed them in two different places. One, we've deployed inside a gated area, so that our teams don't have to go there and mow. It just stays mowed down. We just need to send one person through this gated area every week to do the touch up details.

But really, the benefit, I think, to the Roomba mowers for commercial maintenance companies is on athletic fields. That's where we deployed the second one - to a Bermuda sports field, because what it does is it gives that consistent cut look every single day for the client. They don't have to worry about us coming out, especially since the Bermuda field needs to be mowed 2, 3, 4 times a week. That's a lot of labor time that we are saving there. It also helps the client because they get that consistent look every single day of the week.

You can also schedule them. You can schedule them to mow at night while there's no practice or games going on. The great thing is that all that scheduling can simply be done from an app on your phone.

That robots work on cellular? You don't have to be close to them to do the scheduling? 😮💨

That is correct. Every robot has a 4g or 4g LTE data box in it so that it can communicate wirelessly.

How big of a field is it? And how long does it take for the robot to take care of it?  

A year ago they could really only manage to mow about an acre and a half. Now that's at least doubled, sometimes triple depending on the size of the mower. When we say an acre, we're pretty much talking about a square or a slightly oblong rectangle.

If the area is 20 feet wide, and the rest of it just runs straight back, it becomes problematic. The problem is the wire that needs to be laid starts to lose its electrical signal the further away from the charging station that it goes. So if your acre property just runs straight back, you're not going to be able to wire that entire piece because the electrical charge runs out. So you really have to think about the shape of the area as well, not just the size.

Typically the size of a football field, that is something that a mower could easily handle and easily keep up with.

The amount of time that we saved is is significant, because we used to send an operations manager out there and there was an expensive mower just for that property, then we had travel time - both directions - plus the time it took to mow the field, get the machine out, put the machine away, clean machine off and that time stuff.

We're saving almost an entire day's worth of labor from an operations manager just by putting these machines out there. So in that case, it paid for itself in the first year.  

What happens in the winter? Do they stay around?

In the winter, we pick up the robots and bring them back to the shop; the charging stations can stay out there. They're weatherproof, it's fine for them to stay out there, but we don't want the robots growing legs and walking away in the wintertime. 🤣

We pull them back and do a little bit of maintenance. The blade is the only thing that needs to be maintained really, and then we put them back out.

How does the Property Manager take this? 😕

It was a little bit difficult at first to convince the property manager that this was the way to go just because they didn't necessarily believe it was going to give them a consistent cut.

Some of the other challenges that we had is because it's an athletic field, we had challenges with the mowers getting caught up in the nets. We just went out there, watched what was happening, did some tightening of the nets and were able to fix the issue.

There’s a little bit of a learning curve with these things. I think as it becomes more mainstream, we’d have less and less issues and customers will become more accepting of these machines.

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