Augmenting Fleets with Robotic Mowers

By Jill Odom

WHEN ROBOTIC MOWERS WERE FIRST PRESENTED TO THE MARKET, many landscapers couldn’t imagine they would be playing a major role in their business, but as years have passed more landscape maintenance and lawn care companies are adopting the autonomous mowers.

Sebert Landscape has been testing out robotic mowers for the past five

years. Photo: Sebert Landscape

Some have added this new tool in the toolbox due to the ongoing labor shortage. Others gave robotic mowers a try so they could stay on the cutting edge of innovation. Teddy Russell, CEO of Russell Landscape Group, based in Sugar Hill, Georgia, says he first tested out a robotic mower in 2010. He says a company in France invited him to their office where he was able to watch the mowers at work. They then installed one at the front of their office.

“Russell Landscape has always em- braced technology and change,” Russell says. “We want to be a leader in the

industry and are open to any ideas that help us continue to improve.” Russell say they have tested Green-

zie technology with Exmark and Green Machine mowers and Husqvarna’s Automower.

Jeff Sebert, president and founder of Sebert Landscape, based in Bartlett, Illinois, says his company began trying out robotic mowers around five years ago. His company has also been testing Husqvarna’s Automower brand. “I think the future is going to be based around robotic mowers for our industry due to all the issues we have with labor,” Sebert says. Sebert says robotic mowers also fit their culture of being green and reducing their carbon emissions. Todd Vena, maintenance oper- ations director for Mariani Land- scape, based in Lake Bluff, Illinois, says they started using robotic mowers in the spring/summer of 2018. This was in response to continuing labor constraints as well as a desire to stay up to date on the latest technology trends in the industry.

Mariani has tested out robotic mowers from STIHL, Husqvarna, ECHO and Ambrosio.


Over the past 10 years, Russell says he’s seen improvements with the technology.

“I can now see the light at the end of this long tunnel!” Russell says. “The GPS and more precise data with advanced technology is showing that this will be a viable tool for contractors and consum- ers to use.” Vena says starting out they were excited to see how the

32 The Landscape Professional //September/October 2020

autonomous mowers would perform. “Now we have learned a lot but still have much to learn,” Vena says. “Every site presents new and different challeng- es. Our opinion is still we are excited to see how they change the market.” Sebert says they are still waiting to see a robotic mower that could be easily utilized from a commercial level on a day to day basis. “That is the current issue,” he says.

“There’s nothing really out there as of yet that will take us into the commer- cial market and help us maintain these properties.”

CURRENT BUSINESS MODELS Mariani has installed 50 robotic mowers on customer properties and Vena says the number is climbing. “We charge for it through our weekly maintenance services,” Vena says. “We try to find sites within our existing client base that are best suited for robotic mowers and then we get the client’s approval.” Vena says the installation fee is recouped through their maintenance service programs. He says the customer response has been very positive, but with a learning curve.

“Standard maintenance on the

machines is every two to three weeks depending on turf growth,” Vena says. “For errors and troubleshooting, that is a daily responsibility depending on the amount of errors.”

Due to the batteries, the robotic mow- ers are collected and stored inside during the winter.

Sebert says they have installed robotic mowers on smaller residential properties. There is a flat fee for the installation and a monthly maintenance fee. However, the resident can decide to purchase the robotic mower and take care of it on their own. “Typically, if we’re providing other services to that property we are checking at that point in time, but at least monthly, we’re taking a check,” Sebert says. “Most

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