MowBotix: Automated Lawn Mowing

Summers spent brush hogging his parents’ farm in Conway, Missouri, inspired Lee Hicks and his wife, Meagan, to create an automated lawn mowing startup.

When Lee Hicks was growing up, he spent summers in 90- to 100-degree heat brush hogging on his parents’ 80-acre farm. “It’s miserable,” he says. The slow process was made worse by the diesel fumes from the tractor. Hicks knew there had to be a better way, possibly one that completely automated the chore. He looked into the price of a GPS unit, which was $25,000 at the time, and unable to swing the cost had to table the idea.

But in February 2016, Lee and his wife, Meagan, returned to the possibility of creating a system to automate lawn mowing. They found prices had dropped dramatically, thanks in part to the development of autonomous drones and vehicles, and decided to invest. Their startup, MowBotix, aims to remove people from the lawn mowing equation by creating systems that mount onto mowers and operate independently. “We’re not in the business of taking people’s jobs,” Meagan says. “We just want to make it easier [for] a business to do better.”

The Hickses have spent the past year and a half perfecting the technology—which relies on high-precision GPS sensors, multiple other sensors and artificial intelligence—and are now searching for 10 beta customers as well as working with a manufacturer in Ohio*. Their primary customers will be commercial lawn operators, golf courses and municipalities. Based on discussions with those businesspeople, the Hickses say MowBotix won’t have a negative impact on jobs. “Our lawn care operators, they are filling jobs that they actually sort of have a hard time filling, or at least at a price point that they can remain competitive in the marketplace,” Lee says. “Now when it comes to golf courses, they feel like the mowing is labor intensive, so if they can actually just automate that, they can take their current people and improve their golf course in different ways.”

Although there are still a few kinks to fix, Lee and Meagan hope to start selling MowBotix during the first quarter of 2018 and eventually translate the technology so it can brush hog, apply fertilizers and insecticides and maybe even remove snow.

*Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the relationship between MowBotix and a manufacturer in Ohio. The companies are working together but do not have a contractual agreement.

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