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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Robotic lawn mower that cuts grass, greenhouse gas emissions misplaced since Nov. 8

After using the Miimo robotic lawn mower to cut grass on campus, the machine is now missing

Outside Voorhies Hall and the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) building, a white plastic Roomba-like machine used to roam around the lawn, automatically shortening the grass on its own. It’s quiet, very quiet. As of Nov. 8, however, the robot has been missing — it was last seen on that Thursday back in the dock it resides in at night.

The campus robot is Honda’s Miimo lawn mower, a quiet, self-contained device with an electric wire, which is in charge of mowing the lawn in a very specified, small green area. When programing the machine, perimeters are set for a specific area and it continues to mow 24/7, said Tyson Mantor, the superintendent of ground and landscape services.

According to Miimo’s website, the machine mows and charges independently and uses a microcomputer, timer and sensors to provide “automated, precise, unattended grass cutting.”

“It goes over the area like a roomba in the house,”  said Matt Forest, the UC Davis grounds supervisor.

The machine does have its limitations, so it only works in this particular location at UC Davis because it is small, Cary Avery, the associative director of grounds and landscape services, explained.

“We have such a large campus, so we can only utilize it in very specific situations,” Mantor said. “It is very cool to use in small courtyards, since it takes so much time for our guys to go in and hand mow that area.”

After around two months of using the machine, grounds and landscape services have had no problems using it other than the occasional shut down due to being dirty.

“It sensed that it was dirty and stopped,” Forrest said. “We blew it out and cleaned it up and reset the password.”

As for the disappearance of the mower, Forrest said that it was either misplaced or stolen.

“When Honda offered to leave it with us on campus, I was not concerned that security would be that big of a deal,” Forrest said.

Forrest said that stealing the machine is useless since in order to use it, one needs to know how to program it, which requires its dock.

“It is missing and we’d like to have it back,” Forrest said.

The California Air and Water Resource Board contacted UC Davis about whether it would be interested in trying out a new robotic lawn mower made by Honda, Avery said. UC Davis agreed. After several conversations over the course of six months, grounds and landscape services were able to bring a new Miimo to campus.

“We are really doing this for the Honda Cooperation as a test site,” Avery said.

The Miimo is not on the market yet, Forrest said, since it has not been approved for retail release in California.

“We will [be] giving them feedback and see how it works,” Forrest said. “It’s pretty handy and does it’s thing, but it does have limited applications.”

Using the Miimo lawn mower reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released Mantor said; grounds and landscape services is always looking for sustainable and green technologies.

“We are very interested in any new technologies that reduce emissions, pesticide use, and we want to experiment more with battery operated equipment,” Avery said.

Mantor has hope that UC Davis can implement more of these technologies in the future.

“The technology shows promise and I’m looking forward to using more [of this] technology,” Mantor said.

Written by: Margo Rosenbaum — features@theaggie.org


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