A high-tech way to avoid some chores

Roland Berchtold bought himself the large iMow, capable of cutting up to one acre at a time. This was ideal for his 4,000 square-metre property, providing him with more leisure time. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

What’s better than the smell of freshly cut grass? The smell of freshly cut grass you didn’t have to mow.

Better still? Sitting in a hammock – or doing anything else, somewhere else – while the lawnmower does all the work itself. Whether you’re looking to be on the cutting edge of technology – literally, in this case – or just feeling lazy, there’s now a device that will do just that.

“It used to take me an hour and a half cutting the lawn,” said Roland Berchtold, an Elmira resident who owns an iMow. “Now it’s probably taking more time, but I just watch this thing. Now I’m watching it with a beer in my hammock, so it’s not that bad cutting the lawn anymore.”

The iMow is a robotic lawnmower designed by STIHL that is programmed to mow your lawn for you – think of a Roomba for the lawn rather than your floors. It comes in either a small size, capable of cutting up to one acre, as well as a large model, capable of handling one full acre. The little device has a mind of its own.

“Using a small perimeter wire, that’s how the robot lawnmower knows where to go,” said Ron Weber of Martin’s Small Engines. “It just stays within the perimeter and just keeps bouncing around inside there.

“It knows the line that it can’t cross; if there’s an obstacle like a tree, it has a sensor; essentially, it’ll bump into it, and then it’ll bounce off and go in another direction. It’s got an elaborate scheduling system. So you can set it up to mow. You don’t have to do anything, actually, if everything’s working properly.”

While it can detect more massive objects, it has the potential to chew through smaller, softer objects.

“There’s a couple of things you have to pay attention to because if you leave crocs or flip-flops around, the iMow will find it and shred it, for sure. It found the lid of my garbage bin and tore it up,” said Berchtold. “It once found a garbage bag, but it just basically wraps it around the blade and stops automatically. When it catches something, it actually turns itself off and says ‘mowing blade obstructed.’”

Powered by lithium-ion batteries, the device will even drive itself to the charging dock and recharge itself when the battery is running low. After it is charged, it will continue the process of mowing the lawn. All the customer has to do is program the length of time they want the device to mow for.

“You can choose the number of hours, and then you have slots. It starts at 6:30 a.m. until noon, and then from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. These are the time periods that it mows,” Bechtold said of his own configuration.

Furthermore, it assesses whether or not the weather is ideal to mow the lawn.

“You don’t have to take it in when it rains,” explained Weber. “It actually has a rain sensor on it – it senses when it’s raining, and it won’t go out during that period. Because you know what it’s like when you mow wet grass – it’s all clumpy and lumpy. So it won’t go out during that time.”

The device is popular in Europe because of the low level of noise it emits.

“My family in Austria has been using these things for a long time,” said Berchtold. “The thing is, they don’t make any noise. In Europe, you can’t cut the lawn at lunchtime. You can’t cut the lawn after five in the evening; you can’t cut the lawn on the weekend. Because people live a little closer together; these laws were put in place due to noise pollution. So plenty of people in Europe have these iMows.”

While some lawnmowers operate using a wire or thread, the iMow uses a blade. According to Weber, this gives the device an advantage as it is capable of mulching grass and weeds.

For those not exactly tech-savvy, the installation is included with the price of the device, including that of the perimeter fence – it can’t set itself up, but others can.

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