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among Tesla owners! Nevertheless, enthusiasm should always be guided by plenty of real-world information so customers understand how robotic mowers differ from traditional mowers. OPERATIONAL FUNDAMENTALS Let’s go back a step and summarise some of the key general attributes of robotic mowers: • Whereas ride-on or tractor-style mowers perform relatively infrequent mowing passes (perhaps weekly or fortnightly, depending on location, labour availability, and desired manicure, encountering very dense grass growth between sessions), a robotic mower is designed for continual use as a ‘maintenance mower’, ideally never cutting more than 2-5mm turf height at any time. This frequent fringe cutting removes the need for heavier cutting gear. • Robotic mowers can be used 24/7 – there are no practical reasons against night-time mowing (though localised nocturnal fauna can cause problems in some parts of the world). This open-ended schedule means small robotic mowers can cover great areas more regularly in a given week compared with daytime-only, tractor-style units. • Robotic mowers, ideally, should mow 100% of a given area at least three times per week in warmer climates, less in cooler climates. • High-quality robotic mowers (Ambrogio, G-Force, Husqvarna, Kress, STIHL, etc) can mow approximately 500–700m2 per hour. Larger models like the soon-to-bereleased Echo will be able to cover 2,000m2 per hour. In Melbourne, for instance, a golf course manager should allow for one robot per 20,000m2, which might equate to 5–10 robots for a typical 18-hole golf course covering 20-30 acres. • When budgeting for the purchase of robotic mowers, allow for a cost of approximately $1 per square metre of coverage. Estimates can fluctuate depending on microclimates and restrictions on mowing times (in which case extra mowers might be needed). BE PROPERTY-SPECIFIC Given the abovementioned general performance characteristics of robotic mowers in standard circumstances, it’s time to consider more property-specific matters such as local terrain and holes, slope, grass species, as well as thatching. Jason says one of the biggest confusions in the marketplace relates to the slope of a property, and the capacity of robotic mowers to handle gradients. “We run three slope ratings on every product we have, so customers can see the maximum slope inside the boundary,” he says. “Anything that is 1m inside the area must be able to handle the max. slope capability, which is generally between 35% and 75% gradient. Which is not the same thing as degrees – Australians are used to degrees, but gradients are approximately half of what degrees are. So 45 degrees is 100% gradient. The max edge slope capability is around 10%–20%; that’s all they can handle on the edge.” In extreme cases, Jason adds, 4WD and 4W-steering robotic mowers can overcome the challenges of steep terrains; these robots can also increase your edge slope capability to up to 55%. Another pitfall for unwary customers relates to grass species. Kikuyu and buffalo grasses are extremely hardy and can affect the performance of robots mowers that are ill-suited to them. “What happens is the front wheels sink into the grass and the back wheels are trying to drive the robot into the grass – in a straight line there’s no trouble; it’s when you’re trying to turn that you have problems. “So if you have a hat trick – which is holes in your yard, a bit of a slope on the edge, and kikuyu or buffalo – then you might have to go for a $7,000 4WD, 4W-steering machine that will actually be able to turn itself around at the bottom of your slope.” Finally, some customers fear that ongoing cutting will lead to severe thatch build-up. Interestingly, Jason says frequent mowing of small lengths of grass has the opposite effect: tiny grass clippings tend to settle more deeply in turf and decompose more readily than dense clippings. Similarly, concerns about continually bringing clippings into a house or indoor commercial setting are unfounded, as miniscule clippings do not linger on turf surfaces where they might adhere to footwear. MEASURE AND ASSESS As a means of addressing property-specific features of a property, Jason says customers are invited to photograph or video their land so precise configurations and obstacles can be measured and appraised. Combined with digital imagery from services like Google Earth, it is possible to make careful observations of each customer’s property so mowing requirements can be matched to precise mowing solutions. Thanks to a massive inventory of makes and models, Jason says, it is almost always possible to find a robotic mower for every application, no matter how extreme the apparent hurdles. “We’re big on the support front, which is the number one thing to get people to understand: talk to someone first,” Jason concludes. Robot Lawn Mowers Australia is in Underwood, Queensland, and serves domestic and acreage customers nationally, as well as commercial customers between Ballina and Harvey Bay. Visit robotlawnmowers.com.au for more information. Despite their small size, commercial-grade robotic mowers can easily keep large acreage and commercial properties in trim. The team at Robot Lawn Mowers Australia: Glyn, Jason, Natalia and Michael. NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2023 | POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA | 23

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