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How the evolution of aerators has led to a better product, simplifying tough jobs

February 25, 2022 -  By
Thanks to advancements made over the last 40 years, aerifying is no longer a brutal job for crewmembers. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Thanks to advancements made over the last 40 years, aerifying is no longer a brutal job for crewmembers. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

When it comes to almost every bit of machinery in the landscape and lawn care industry, the saying “they don’t ’em like they used to” is quite appropriate. And that is a good thing.

For example, walk-behind aerators of the past were either heavy and clumsy or light and ineffective. Gary Sorensen, agronomic sales manager for SiteOne Landscape Supply, remembers when he started with LESCO in 1988, how primitive the aerators dedicated to the lawn care industry were.

“For lawncare, there really weren’t a lot of options back in the 1980s,” Sorensen says. “Lawncare was in its infancy stage, really starting to go.

LESCO was deep into it. We came up with one of the first walk-behind aerators a customer could purchase. It was clumsy, but it was all that there was. We’ve come a long way since then.”

Scott Kinkead, executive vice president of Minnesota-based Turfco agrees. He recalls when aerifying was a job that made crewmembers crumble, or even worse, quit.

“It used to be you put your least experienced guy, or maybe even the guy you wanted to get rid of, on the aerator,” Kinkead says. “Because it was a man-eater, it was brutal. But that was 30 years ago when you could get people to do that. It’s a different environment today — people won’t put up with that (today).”

Evolution

Aerators evolved because customers demanded it. Multifunctional ride-on aerators are now the norm. Aeration is a growing market for both the manufacturers and the lawn care companies because it has become so efficient, Sorensen says.

“Operator speed is much more efficient. We also have options where you can put a drop-seeder in front, so they can drop seed, (and) run the aerator over it,” Sorensen says. “Now all you have to do is go back with your fertilizer. So instead of three passes, you’re only doing two.”

Kinkead adds that the machines are also more high-tech, with features like Turfco’s patented auto-depth control.

“Previously the operator had to ask, ‘What’s my psi (of pressure)?’ Because you don’t want to tear up the turf, but you do want to still aerify,” Kinkead says. “So now the operator can go out and aerate without worrying about his depth, or adding additional pressure.”

From the late 1980s to today, Sorensen says he’s seen dozens of manufacturers work to create a better aerator. His company most recently released the Pro-Aer 30 and the Pro-Aer 36 in October, a line that has been so popular it sold out the last two years.

Along with that, he says aeration services have become a money-maker, instead of a man-breaker, for the company’s customers.

“Now, it’s much more efficient,” he says. “The revenue streams, you can do three or four times the amount of (work) you used to do in a day… all of a sudden landscapers are saying, ‘You know what? This is a great source of revenue. Oh, and by the way, at the end of the day my guys aren’t unnecessarily tired.’”

“Everyone has the opportunity to grow, the only thing stopping them is people and productivity,” Kinkead adds. “Companies want their equipment to be more productive, more effective and take on less wear and tear. It’s easier to provide more services to the customers you already have than to add more customers.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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