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Although the U.S. commercial landscaping industry is worth $100 billion, it’s trapped in dire financial straits. Its outdated equipment depends on manual labor, whose high turnover results in rising staffing costs. Even the industry’s top-rated companies scrape along on profit margins of 10 percent or less. But Graze’s AI-driven mowing systems appear poised to revolutionize this technologically stagnant sector.
Many landscapers would welcome tech innovation as most of today’s commercial mowing equipment has seen surprisingly little evolution over the past century. For example, many riding mowers are still powered by costly diesel engines, which can generate more than 34 times the carbon emissions of an average car.
Squeezed between the high costs of fuel and manual labor, and with few carbon-neutral equipment options, a growing number of commercial landscapers are confronting bleak financial futures—a stark reality that has created clear and urgent demand for disruptive solutions.
Graze’s autonomous mowing systems may provide the disruptive answers this industry has been seeking—potentially saving many landscaping companies from financial ruin while reducing environmental impact and attracting thousands of investors along the way.
An Industry in Search of Innovation
Even before COVID-19, America’s commercial landscaping businesses were facing significant financial challenges. In 2019, a full 13% reported no profit at all, while the vast majority said their profits had dropped over the past year.
Much of the blame for these problems rests on outdated technology. Although commercial landscaping represents a $98.7 billion nationwide market, it has attracted startlingly little tech innovation. Today’s landscapers remain reliant on inefficient diesel-driven mowers, which guzzle expensive fuel by the gallon and cough out far more atmospheric carbon than cars do.
Plus, these mowers require manual operators—whose wages consume, on average, 45% of a landscaping company’s revenue and counting. Rising wages and labor shortages slice these profit margins even thinner—leaving many commercial landscapers desperate for solutions that will deliver immediate bottom-line impact.
An AI-Powered Lawn Mowing Solution
As the commercial landscaping industry remains trapped between thin profit margins, high labor costs and tightening environmental restrictions, a tech startup called Graze Mowing might provide an escape hatch—in the form of a self-driving electric-powered lawn mower that can slice labor costs by as much as 50 percent while eliminating a full 75 percent of fuel expenses.
In fact, Graze currently manufactures the world’s only commercial-size autonomous mower—designed specifically for golf courses, country clubs and the landscaping companies that service them. Equipped with ultrasonic and sensors, odometry sensors and computer vision, Graze’s mowers safely and precisely navigate commercial job sites.
Each Graze mower can be controlled from a computer, tablet or smartphone. With the push of a button, the mower navigates around the boundaries of the area it will service, tracing the borders and interior in a series of parallel paths. One initial run is all it requires for the mower to map the space and take note of all obstacles, like trees and bushes. From then on, it will automatically mow that same area at the push of a button.
What’s more, Graze mowers actively collect real-world data every time they mow. They feed this information into a central analytics console, where machine-learning algorithms analyze performance, pinpoint inefficiencies and plot more-effective pathways for the next run. That means each mower’s performance automatically improves over time—without any need for human feedback.
A Glimpse Into Landscaping’s Future
Graze’s current generation of mowers has already raised $5.5 million in capital from more than 4,000 investors—including backing from Wavemaker Partners, a global venture capital fund managing more than $500 million in assets. Led by John Vlay, CEO of Graze Mowing and a landscaping veteran with a vast network of industry connections, the company has already secured $19.35 million in preorders from landscapers and country clubs.
Riding this wave of support, Graze has already developed a second-generation mower—equipped with laser imaging, detection and ranging (LIDAR), which enables it to spot and avoid smaller and/or faster-moving objects. The Graze V-2 also comes with a 7-hour battery system as well as a customizable mow deck, which can be fitted with specialized attachments for trimming, edging, snow blowing, mulching and more.
And that’s just the beginning of Graze’s overall vision. Leveraging the real-world data its mowers collect every day, Graze is hard at work building an integrated AI system that will manage entire fleets of autonomous mowers—detecting and treating plant diseases, balancing workloads and even tracking weather data to coordinate and direct automated mowing services where they’re needed most.
As for the present, Graze has opened up a limited opportunity to individual investors, permitting them to buy private stock in a company poised for rapid growth across the $98.7 billion commercial landscaping market as well as the $14.16 billion golfing market. Last time Graze offered company stock for sale, it quickly sold out $3.88 million in shares. More than 3,300 investors have already bought up 50 percent of this round’s offerings—and the number of available shares is shrinking every day as the round close approaches on June 30.
Self-driving vehicles and electric power have already transformed the automotive industry—and the commercial landscaping sector may well be next. Graze’s specialized machine learning, computerized vision and zero-emission electrical drive systems are paving the way for a fully autonomous future, in an industry that desperately needs new solutions.
As labor costs continue to rise, and staff shortages keep increasing, many landscaping companies may soon be left with no choice but to follow its forward-looking competitors and to invest in Graze’s promise for a more sustainable future.
Sponsored content by Graze Mowing