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State of the Industry Report: Won’t back down in 2022

December 15, 2021 -  By , and
Experts say autonomous mowers are here to stay and the companies hesitant to adopt technology will be left behind. (Photo: Chris Aluka Berry)

Experts say autonomous mowers are here to stay and the companies hesitant to adopt technology will be left behind. (Photo: Chris Aluka Berry)

Part III: The year 2032

After considering the year that was and then discussing expectations for 2022, it was time to look even further in the future. It might sound distant, but 2032 is only 10 years away. Readers didn’t hesitate to visualize what the industry might look like a decade from now.

Levi Duckett

Levi Duckett

Levi Duckett, president of Sunshine Landscape in Boise, Idaho, says he is always thinking about what the industry and his company might look like in the next five to 10 years. He has a road map he’d like to follow but says the only thing that is a constant is change.

“Everything changes so often, it’s hard to know (what’s next). Technology is going to be a big focus for us on what we’re doing,” Duckett says. “We work with Boise State (University). They want us to mow on the weekends because they don’t want the noise. We’re looking at robotic machines, we’re looking at adding battery-powered equipment so we can be there during the day and not bothering the teachers and students. We’re looking at options for that, I think it’s smart.

The biggest challenge we have is how do we recharge all that stuff out in the field?”

Kyle Narsavage, owner of Greensweep in Burtonsville, Md., says he saw what the future holds when he attended the 2021 GIE+EXPO in October. A common theme among manufacturers was electric and robotic equipment.

“Labor is so tight right now, I don’t see that situation getting too much better. We’ve all got to find ways to be more efficient, and if that’s leveraging technology, leveraging electric … that’s a benefit for the earth, (but) it might not save on efficiency,” he says. “In D.C., where we are, they’ve outlawed gas blowers. We’re following California. We know that everything is coming after that. String trimmers, hedge trimmers — they’re coming next — so we’re shifting to electric. It might be a little early for some items, but I think that is here to stay, and I also think robotics is here to stay.”

Kyle Narsavage

Kyle Narsavage

Riley Rivers, president of Rivers Landscaping in Bozeman, Mont., says he believes the mindset of the industry has shifted, and that “everyone” thinks mowing will be fully automated by 2032. And those who don’t believe it might just be fearful of the change.

“It’s like how Uber and Airbnb came to the market. The people who are afraid of it will write it off,” he says. “But it’s only a matter of time until they figure out robotic mowing, so if you’re going to do it you just have to capitalize on it.”

Mayberry predicts that not only will robotic mowers be the norm, but that they’ll also be able to help troubleshoot problem areas of turf. Perhaps a sprayer attachment could be added to the mower to fertilize. Once artificial intelligence gets caught up, the robot could even calculate the cost of fixing problems in the field and generate a proposal for the client.

Michael Mayberry

Michael Mayberry

Mowing is just the starting point for how robotics will help lawn care professionals, he says. And like Rivers says, those who are afraid of the technology should beware.

“You don’t have to be ready to jump on these things. But if you want to be successful, you need to be watching them so that when it is the right time, you’re not the last one getting involved,” Mayberry says. “And if you are somebody who is saying ‘this is a waste,’ we and other companies like us will gobble you up. Because this is the way of the future. This is a disruption to the industry that is going to go forward. There’s no question about that at this point.”

Jim Cali, co-founder of executive coaching firm McFarlin Stanford, says he’s been pondering the future of the industry for some time. He says he thinks the industry is behind others when it comes to automation, and that it will quickly catch up. He also adds that he thinks the industry will be markedly different in
10 years.

“I think it will be a much more professional industry because that is already what we are seeing as we’re sitting around the dinner table; it’s what we saw a few weeks ago at Landscapes,” Cali says. “People look at this a profession now, not just as an afterthought. I’m excited to see where that goes in 10 years.”

This article is tagged with , , and posted in 1221, Business, Cover story, Featured
Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University and has been in B2B publishing for seven years. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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