Fleet of robot mowers: a pilot project

In 2019 the Dutch town of Midden-Groningen had the opportunity to test, during a pilot project, a robot mower for football clubs from Belrobotics. The Dutch town now uses its 29 Bigmow robot mowers every day to look after 41 sports grounds.

 Situation in Groningen

Midden-Groningen is a Dutch town that was created thanks to the fusion of several entities. It counts around 61,000 inhabitants and has a large number of sports grounds to look after.

location of Midden-Groningen

Before 2021 the town of Midden-Groningen used to rely on several tractor mowers to maintain those sports grounds such as:

  • Roller-cutter mowers,
  • Rotary blade mowers,
  • String trimmers (“strimmers”),

But these types of mowers did not always meet the required quality standards. In fact, as Ronald Westers from the town of Groningen quickly adds, the cut quality also depends on the skills of the operator. Because of this problem, the town wanted to find a more efficient solution.

 A milestone order of robot mowers

Thanks to Jakob Jan Everts, Purchasing & Service Specialist with our dealer, Evertstuinmachines, a pilot project was set up with one of our professional robot mowers. It was quite clear that the local administration staff was already aware of the existence of robot mowers. All that we had to do now was to convince them. He succeeded in convincing them with a presentation of our products in the gardens of the Groningen Town Hall.

This pilot project took place on the football pitch of V.V. SGV in Schildwolde, one of the villages that make up the township. The project was soon found to be convincing and a first Bigmow was bought:

“The robot did its job perfectly and without the least problem”.

After some deliberation, the local authority put out a call for tenders for a 10-year contract for the mowing of its sports grounds. Krinkels came top of the list and chose to work alongside the Belrobotics dealer, Evertstuinmachines, among other things for maintenance. The goal of this cooperation was to better manage the project, given the size of it.

As it so happened 28 other Belrobotics robot mowers were then ordered in a single 10-year contract for the mowing of the local sports grounds.

For Belrobotics, very active in this sector in any case, this was one of the first European end-user contracts of any such scale.

Une vue satellite de la flotte de robots à Groningen


Installation that demands genuine expertise

The contract was also a first for Krinkels and, as Geert de Haan, the Project Manager of the company explains, the debate around the number of robots, their deployment and the installation of charging stations was a real challenge. It was obviously not enough to just put the robots on the ground and let them do their thing.

In October the robots were quickly installed in their zones. This allowed the launch of a series of tests and analyses to optimise their run and to ensure that everything was working well. Since the start of the 2021 mowing season this period has helped things move on without the least problem. All the clubs are now convinced by the robot mowers.

 The benefits of professional robot mowers for sports grounds

The call for tenders laid down certain specific requirements, one of which would quite particularly favour the use of robot mowers:

 Sports grounds with grass cut to perfection

The perfect cut is exactly one of the greatest advantages of the robots. They can carry on cutting 24/7 and, thus, fit in around training sessions and competitions.

This also allows them to keep the grass cut to a constant length while guaranteeing the densification of the field. Which does not only increase its resistance but also limits the appearance of felt. As a consequence, people are less tempted to use chemical products. Groningen has not used any for two years now and is happy to continue this way.

Furthermore, the light weight of the robots allows easier mowing during more delicate and wet seasons such as Spring or Autumn. There is no risk of them damaging ground that is already battered in the trying test of matches. The robots can also correctly mow particular areas such as the corner flags, etc.

But there is even more in it. The sustainability aspect of the mowing method was not without interest for the town either. Unlike the tractor-type mowers that require diesel, the robot mowers run on electricity.

Monitoring robots under the microscope using the app

This application provides insight into the status of the robots and safety alarms. Good news for all those who are concerned, especially for Krinkels. Even though they already keep spare and replacement machines to always have a mower available at critical moments, the close-monitoring combined application really offers absolute risk-limitation.

 Teams and associations won over

The correct installation and functioning of the equipment is important, but communication is also a crucial factor. Despite the complex health situation, the town was eager to hold some explanatory meetings and presentations with the various associations. Up to this very moment, only the club Schildwolde has been in contact with the robots on the ground. These sessions were organised to highlight the expectations of all interested parties and to ensure that the clubs feel happier about the capacities of robot mowers and their possibilities.

At the moment, now that the various clubs and teams have been able to check the results, the feedback is very positive. Even to the point that certain clubs are now themselves busy cleaning the grass off their mower blades, or just want to receive application logins to follow the mowing lines and intervene directly in case of minor defects. For Belrobotics, this is positive proof of the efficiency of its machines and that they earn the loyalty of their end-users.

Towns that save by going over to robot mowers

Contacts with our different partners suggest that the various towns are not always completely aware of the cost of their mowing systems or the clear and obvious benefits of robot mowers. Not only in terms of quality, but above all economy.

If you are, just like Groningen, interested in using robots, then please do not hesitate to contact us or consult directly one of our local dealers, who may perhaps be able to arrange a test run for you.