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Robotic Lawn Mowers Invade Australian Lawns
Robotic lawn mowers. Opportunity or Threat?
By Todd Layt
The robot invasion has started. Across Europe and the USA hundreds of thousands of robotic lawn mowers have been sold. But in Australia, our Buffalo Grass is a little more difficult to mow than fine Rye Grass. So can they mow Buffalo? The answer is yes, and I have done it.
In Europe and the USA, where cool season grasses such as Fescue and Rye grass dominate, these robot lawn mowers do 99% of the lawn trimming maintenance. Little garden edging is required. Here in Australia, with fast growing Couches and Kikuyu, and even Buffalo turf, regular edging is a necessity, so human intervention is still needed. Having said that, they can still do 99% of the mowing.
Sure it will be 5 years before robot lawn mowers become a real threat to the lawn mowing contractor, and 10 years before they have a real negative impact on the mowing run, but for the public they are here now, and for the smart contractor there may be great opportunities to build a really good business using these sci-fi machines from the future. In fact, the opportunity is here now. This is cutting edge stuff, pardon the pun. There maybe work for contractors to maintain these machines and do the edging. Alternatively, many people who mow the lawn themselves will see an opportunity to free themselves from that task and hand it over to a robot. Also, some of these machines which I will talk about later may save councils, golf courses, schools, and sporting fields a lot of money.
Robot lawn mowers are here, and Europe and the USA would say they are here to stay. Over the next few years, they will become more available.
Robots available now.
Provided the lawn is short and mown constantly with the robot, most can even mow Buffalo turf. These mowers need to go back to a battery recharging station regularly, and just keep wandering the lawn mowing a tiny bit off each time. For Buffalo turf you need a shorter non-thatchy mow, so it is best to get the height down first with a regular mowing. If the lawn ever gets long due to the robot lawn mower needing repair, or for some other outage reason, the lawn will need to be manicured before the robot lawn mower is used again. Generally, once the robots are set to work, they do it tirelessly.
The best 2 models suited for Buffalo are the 220AC and the 203ACX. The 220AC sells for $3999, and mows about 1800 square metres per day. The 230ACX sells for $4499 and mows up to 3000 square metres per day. Each machine will return to the charger when its power runs low, charge and then will get back to work. They have alarms for anti-theft and come with a considerable amount of wire. The wire is run around the perimeter and connected to an electrical source. It is secured by special pegs. Once you have installed one of these, the next one will be easy. The robot knows not to cross this wire and mows in patterns to mow all the lawn on a very regular basis. The mowers take about 4 or 5 mm off each time, so the lawn needs to be mown regularly by the robot. The lawn will need to be mown well prior to first use. The robot can cross over gravel and paths, provided the wire shows the way. Extra wire costs $180 for 250 metres.
Contact Husqvarna on 02 43721500 to find your nearest dealer for these robots. These will be widely available very soon, and are available now from certain dealers.
This company sell 2 brands. Phone: 0448 266 737 www.autoearth.com.au
Belrobotis has the Parkmow ($22500) suitable for 8000 square metres and the Bigmow for areas up to 20000 square metres ($29500). They even have one that picks up golf balls. These are the commercial robot mowers designed for sporting fields, large factory sites, and acreage.
Ambrogio has the L50 model that does not even need wire to be installed. It picks up the garden edges. The battery lasts 3 hours, and can mow up to 400 square metres, but it needs very specific criteria to work. Remember it needs to mow regularly, so it can only take a small amount off the top each time, so you will need to keep it working regularly. They also have the L200 ($4100) for 1500 square metres and the L300 ($5900) for 5000 square metres. These need wire around the edges to help guide them, but I see that as a good thing.
The Spider lawn mower.
This is not really a robot mower, but it is a remote control mower. It is designed for steep slopes, where ride on lawn mowers would be dangerous. It also works well in wet areas where other mowers would get bogged down. It mows 1.23 metres wide and can be controlled from 50 to 100 meters away. It mows at a fast 8 km per hour, mowing about as fast as a standard ride on mower. It costs $55000, and weighs 325kg. A company called Serco-Sodexho bought 2 for mowing batters and slopes for the Australian Department of Defence. One day these may be controlled by GPS, which would then make this powerful machine a true robot.
Contact Bill Mckie on 0425 255571 for more information.