The CEO of the fast-growing lawn care franchise opens up about how robotic lawn mower technology is poised to disrupt the $82 billion lawn care industry
Mowbot is bringing a new era of environmental responsibility to the $82 billion lawn care industry. By bringing robotic lawn mower technology – which is widely used in Europe – to the United States, Mowbot marks the end of the industry’s long dependence on fossil fuels with a technology that creates healthier and safer lawns.
But how does it work? To find out, we recently interviewed Mowbot CEO Tony Hopp to discuss why Mowbot is so revolutionary, how the technology works and why Mowbot is an exciting low-cost investment opportunity for those who are ready to bring the future of lawncare to their communities.
What is the history of the robotic lawnmower and how does the technology work?
Hopp: Husqvarna has been manufacturing these mowers for over 20 years. In Europe, where robotic lawn mowers are widely used, everyone has postage-stamp yards. When the battery power improved, the technology could sustain cutting the much-larger lawns we see in the United States.
There’s nothing really special about the internals of the technology. It’s still the spinning blade that mows the lawn, but we needed the battery capacity and the digital modem technology to allow the units to report back when they were having problems and allow a technician to remotely change settings on the unit. For example, when a customer calls a Mowbot franchise owner and says, “I want my grass to be a little taller,” a technician can remotely change the cutting height to make the grass grow to the customer’s liking.
What makes Mowbot lawnmowers a robot?
Hopp: Let me give you an example that we’re all familiar with: drones. People often ask, “What’s the difference between a robot and a radio-controlled airplane?” You still have to fly a radio-controlled airplane, but you don’t fly a drone. You control it. You tell it what to do and where to go, but it gets itself there. Our robotic lawnmowers are very similar to drones. We tell it what to do and where to be, but it’s doing it on its own. If there’s a corner of the yard that hasn’t been cut yet, we can send it there, it gets there on its own. If it needs to charge it heads toward its charging bay autonomously.
Other than vacuum cleaners, why aren’t more robotic technologies used in the home?
Hopp: Aside from vacuuming, there aren’t that many chores that need to be done around the house that can be done by a machine. It would be very impersonal to have some mechanical thing moving around your house, trying to hand you something, cook you dinner or tuck you in at night. We’re a long way from that still. But we are not far off from robots building our cars — that’s been happening for decades — or robots cleaning our floors and now robots cutting our lawns.
How does the robotic lawnmower compare to traditional lawnmowers?
Hopp: People talk about getting the sharpest blades on their lawn mowers so that they can get a nice, clean cut. In reality, traditional lawnmowers use dull blades that are not really cutting the grass, they’re whacking off an inch of grass per week. Our robotic lawnmowers have fine razor blades that nick off the top of the grass on a regular basis, so the grass never gets stressed, the grass grows slower and thicker, allowing the grass to become healthy, plush and green.
Our robots have GPS, so they know what areas of the grass need to be cut and which areas can be left alone. It can actually keep track of the growing patterns of your yard, so if you need to use chemicals to help grow your lawn, you’re informed which areas need extra help and which areas are healthy.
How Does Mowbot make lives easier for the consumer?
Hopp: I live in a neighborhood with about 500 houses, and every morning there’s an army of lawn care companies arriving with their loud machinery. It creates a tremendous disruption. Their fumes smell, they spill gasoline into the ground and they get in the way. Typically, with a normal lawn service, you have 10 laborers walking around your yard, and it could be different people every time.
With Mowbot, every yard gets its own robotic lawnmower. The customer sees the same technician when the robot needs maintenance after the initial setup, and the robots are nearly silent and will happily cut in the rain because they’re waterproof. How many people have a lawn care service that cancels every time it rains? With Mowbot, your grass always looks freshly mowed no matter what the weather is. Mowbot is ultimately a safer option for consumers, far less disruptive because it’s nearly silent, and produces a better lawn because it’s cuts only millimeters off the grass at a time, allowing the grass to grow in healthy fashion.
How will Mowbot be a major disruption to the lawn care industry from a labor perspective?
Hopp: The average lawn service requires one technician per 50-60 yards, whereas one technician can deploy robots to mow 280-290 yards. This is significant reduction in labor and a significant increase in reliability.
What makes Mowbot greener and cleaner than traditional methods of cutting grass?
Hopp: Our robots use about ⅛ of the energy consumption of a traditional lawnmower. We’re still charging these mowers from the grid, but it’s eight times more efficient to get the power from the grid than from the gas-powered engine in your traditional mower. Another problem with lawn services is when they take the mowers from yard to yard, they can pick up weeds and excrement from pets that can then affect your lawn.
What makes Mowbot a great business to own?
Hopp: Beyond the fact that robotic technology is fun and exciting, our business model allows our franchisees to operate this business on their own until they significantly scale up their customer base. We provide all the tools they need to succeed in their communities, as well as all the ongoing support they need to run profitable businesses over the long-term.