Back to Blog

The Tesla of Green Industry Robotics

April 8, 2021

In this episode of the Green Industry Perspectives Podcast, Ty Deemer welcomes Charles Brian Quinn to the show. “CBQ”, as he’s affectionately known, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Greenzie. CBQ shares how their core value of “do important things first” helps them be successful, what Greenzie does, what their mission is, and how they approach leaders who are reluctant to embrace innovative technologies.

You can tune in above on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Become a pro member of the podcast to receive notifications for each new episode and bonus content each week.

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:

  • How automation and software collide to increase innovation.
  • The difference between Greenzie and automated mowers.
  • The benefits to robotic mowing with “autopilot”.
  • How they deal with obstructions in the mower’s path.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Ty Deemer:

You are listening to The Green Industry Perspectives podcast, presented by SingleOps, a podcast created for green industry professionals looking for best practices, tactics, and tips on running their tree care or landscape business. 

All right, everyone. Welcome back to Green Industry Perspectives. My name is Ty Deemer. I am the host. I’m also the marketing manager at SingleOps. And today we have a local guest right down the road in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re welcoming Charles Brian Quinn, affectionately known as CBQ to the show. CBQ’s the co-founder and CEO of Greenzie and we’re really excited to have him share a lot of information about Greenzie and in general, just about automation in the green industry. CBQ, welcome. 

Charles Brian Quinn: 

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Ty. Good to be on here. 

Ty Deemer:

For sure. And we’re happy to have you. So CBQ, like I kind of gave you a heads up on, we always start off every episode with the exact same question to provide immediate value for the audience. And that question is pretty simple. In your experience working with landscape and lawn care companies with Greenzie, what have been the top three things or common threads that you have seen in successful landscape or lawn care businesses? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Well, I’m new to the industry, but I’m going to try. I took this question to mean that what do I see and what would have we done. I can only speak from experience. And one of my experiences is that I believe the secret to life is to do, learn, and then repeat. I talk about this a lot. This is called iteration. And really there’s a term, the Japanese word for kaizen which is continuous improvement. So I think in our company and in the companies that we do, I don’t like the people who, I don’t resonate very well with people who like to research and just plan things and have like a strategic plan all the time and constantly like doing spreadsheets. I like the people who do and that’s been successful for us. So we bias towards action and we do. The other thing I would say is I work with a lot of companies that do the important things first and that’s actually a core value of Greenzie as well. So we resonate with that and we get with customers who do it. There’s a billion things you can be doing as a landscaper. You got to make your customers happy, communicate, answer bids, hopefully using SingleOps or other systems like that to help you do it. But you got to know what are the important things. There are some things you can do every day that will cancel out and make the other 99 other to-do’s on your thing completely irrelevant. And that’s what you should always seek to do. That’s what we do. That’s what I think good landscapers do. And the other is you’ve got to be focused on customer success. It’s a core value of ours and we don’t exist with if our customers aren’t successful. And so we always think about it. One of the tricks we do at Greenzie is when we’re making a decision, we always pretend and look at a chair that’s either empty and we say, well, what would our customer think? And we don’t know, we call them or we text them. We send them a note and be like, hey, what should we do? How do we make you more successful? And that’s been a guiding light. So I’d say those three things. Those both for us and for our customers. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, for sure. And those are three threads that we see and we’ve heard on the show over and over again. The iteration one is a really a new one that I’ve heard, but I really like that. And we’ll probably dive into a little bit in that later on just because I’m sure that’s what you’re communicating to a lot of your customers with why Greenzie is a product and a service. We also like for our guests to provide background to the audience just so they know why you’re on the show. So could you just give a little blip about your background, how you kind of were inspired to start Greenzie? And then I think in general a broad overview—we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty later—but what Greenzie is and what your team is trying to do? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Sure, yeah. At Greenzie, our big mission is to free humans from repetitive outdoor labor. And I know that may not resonate immediately with landscapers and lawn professionals and tree care people. But there is a part of the work that I think the reason we use technology like SingleOps or the newest chainsaw or the newest mower is that there’s a reason—some of us got into this business because we like making beautiful environments, outdoor environments. We like happy customers. We like the business and we like doing. I would argue that I think a lot of us don’t like doing the same thing over and over which is why we invent these tools. And so our big goal is to get rid of the repetitive outdoor stuff. I’ll tell you a funny story. When I started this company, and I’ll get to the origin story in a second, I told my friends, our initial value was to free humans from labor. And my friend was like, dude, you love working. Like you work all the time. Do you really want to like not work? And I was like, oh, you’re right. And he said, I think it’s the rote stuff. And I was like, bingo, there it is. It’s the repetitive stuff. It’s literally if I had to go mow my lawn and go back and forth and back and forth, what I really just want is it to look beautiful and I know if I could set it and do maybe the first part and then have the machines take over. And so that’s what we set out to build. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

I’ll go back to my background and why I started it. There’s a funny story and that is my co-founder and I, we’re sitting around, I think we may have even been at his lake house and he has a couple of these little dumb robo mowers. And yeah, I called them dumb. They’re out there. And they basically are like little Roombas for your lawn and homeowners have them and they’re always getting stuck and his were like currently not working and they had installed the boundary wire a little too close. And so he still had to have a guy come out and do the outer edge. And he was saying, why is there no Tesla of these things? Like why is there no software-based approach? He’s like I cracked this one open and I looked underneath it and it’s just hardware. Like all it does is go to the edge of the thing and bounce and he’s like and it’s done that since 2010. And I was like, you’re right. I had one in 2011 and it was like literally the technology’s been the same since then. T think the latest innovation that Roomba mowers have is Alexa integration which is hilarious and useless. So anyway, we were talking about it. And he’s like, why does it not exist? And I remember thinking, geez, you’re right. Like why is there no software version? And so my background is software. Like I have lived and breathed it. When my dad was getting his PhD when I was very young in psychology, he was one of the first to use a computer. And so we had a computer in our home. And I remember like writing little basic A programs which is like an old programming language when I was like very little. These were little games that would be like think of your favorite fruit and spell it. And then you would type banana and it would say I told you to say it. Haha, you failed. Like these were the games I wrote. They’re just silly and stupid. But I have always been programming my entire life. Even at home, I told this story to a couple of people, but I have all these roller shades, these blinds in the house and they all go down automatically. So it’s just repetitive stuff that I didn’t want to do so I just automated it. And so I’ve always been like that and in a nutshell, I love automating things, I love software. And so I had to start this company. 

Now in a little while, I’m going to be able to not say I’ve been in the industry, like I can still use the excuse that I haven’t been in the green industry for a while. Ty, you and I were talking about that earlier before the show that we’ve both been in it now for a couple of years. And so we can’t use that excuse anymore. I have been in the green industry for enough time to know what to say and what not to. And I’ve mowed a few lawns. Even before that, I invested in a company called Lawn.com which was very tough for us to try and, basically like a FedEx model for lawn care. And man, the labor challenge was just tough. So one of the reasons I started this company is that I had to. It was a need that exists. The labor challenge is huge and we got to do it. And software-based robotics is key. I’ll stop there and let you dive in. I know I bounce around. That’s my nature. 

Ty Deemer:

Absolutely. And I love what you touched on about allowing landscape and lawn care professionals to enjoy what they love and why they got involved in the business. That’s been one of our tenants as a software company is like when someone set out to be a landscaper or a tree care professional, they didn’t think like, oh, I want to shuffle, from our perspective, I want to shuffle paper in the office after the day or I want to—yeah, like especially in the tree care space. Like people love being in the trees and like doing arborist work and landscape design/build companies love building beautiful backyards. Like it’s an art to them and it’s not the mundane. And it’s going to be cool to hear you highlight how that exists out in the field, not just back in the office after the work is done. So I think a great place to start our conversation is highlighting what you touched on a minute ago about robo mowers. We’ve had Joe Langton on the show in the past and Joe is a distributor for robo mowers and he uses them regularly. But that’s not really what Greenzie is or does. You actually like unabashedly kind of make fun of them. So let’s like dispel the difference between typical, what we think of as typical robo mowers and what Greenzie does. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. So we’re a new company and I’ll call it a startup although we’ve transitioned to a business with customers and we think that way. But the venture that we have set out to do is the original thesis was a software-based boundary for commercial mowing. Now I’m going to back up a little bit. What we have developed at Greenzie is software and an off-the-shelf sensor approach that is like an add-on to commercial zero-turn mowers that adds autopilot to commercial mowers. So think about it this way. If you’re a landscaper and you do commercial properties, fields, office parks, [inaudible 00:09:30], schools, warehouses, any of that stuff, you’ve got probably a mow crew and a lot of standardized equipment. You probably use bigger zero turn mowers, 61 inch and up, maybe 52, 61, 70 inch and maybe 96 inch mowers. And the challenge is finding labor who will basically ride on the mower is what we call it. For whatever reason even with all the pandemic and with H1B and all that stuff, that we can’t find people who want to do this work. It’s wild. It’s hard work and it’s good work. But we can’t find people that want to do it. So we set out to build a robotic worker. And what it is is our vision is that one day you will walk into a landscaper and we’re close, excuse me, walk into as a landscaper, you walk into a dealer, and we’re close to this, and you say cool I want that yellow mower or the orange one or red one or the green one. They’re all different colors and different manufacturers. And they say great, do you want EFI, do you want electronic fuel injection, whatever? And they say great, this one’s already got Greenzie autopilot installed on it. You just activate it like Sirius or XM Radio or OnStar. And they say great, yep, I know all my friends use it. I can now bid bigger jobs. I can do more and expand without having to hire more people and cut more lawns and make more money and have more customers and make more beautiful, all this stuff. And they say, yes, good. And they walk outside they activate it and they pay it. And that Greenzie auto striping is a software that we have built and it works with off-the-shelf sensors and we can help the manufacturers do it. And we are working directly with Right Manufacturing. So Right Manufacturing’s top-of-the-line mower, their standard ZK is the first mower to have Greenzie autopilot. And right now, we have small private fleet rollouts for some of the larger landscapers. And we’re letting them, don’t worry, all your landscapers, you guys can let them work out all the kinks, and they’re doing it. They are definitely doing it. And so we’re working out all the kinks. And then we hope to be generally available in 2022. We’re probably going to do a pre-order later this year. And we can get to that later. But we are different in that we are commercial. We’re for the big mowers and we actually stripe the lawn. The dumb robo mowers, what you do is you install a boundary wire, you have to pre-put in that wire on the outside of the lawn. With our system, what you do is you have your standard mower, your normal zero turn, a good standard ZK, you pull it off the truck. It still works just like it does. You can mow the whole thing you want. But at some point, what you can do is you can let the robotic worker take over with Greenzie auto striping and you can let it finish and just stripe the inside. So the process is you mow the boundary of the area you want to do it and then it finishes. And I can get in all the details and nuances. But the main difference is again ours is a software-based boundary, we’re for commercial mowing, and we actually efficiently strike the lawn instead of just bouncing back and forth and covering it and having to run all night. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. And we’ll definitely want to dive into some of the topics of like how it works, like what are some of the benefits, what’s been some of the findings of it. But it’s great that you can—

Charles Brian Quinn:

I’m showing you challenge this too. I’m sure your audience wants to know. We got lots. But yeah. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, I imagine like any tech company for sure. But cool. So I’ve listened to some of the conversations that you’ve had with other people in the industry in the past and you have a pretty unique origin story of like the moment when you were building out Greenzie and you were trying to figure out like okay, this is what landscape professionals want or need. And you were on a phone call where someone mentioned like we always have to mow. Like of course, that’s something that takes up a lot of our time. And it really sounds like that’s continued into who you all are as a business because you’re asking the source, the customer, like what do you want? And that’s been the message from day one. So I think that would be a cool story for the audience to hear and kind of how it made you all think about your product. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. So when I started this company, we didn’t have a name, we didn’t have anything. We knew we wanted to do something to help commercial landscapers. So I pretended to be a Georgia Tech student and I picked up the phone. There’s actually a room and the my venture, I did a studio which is like a fun way to start a company and talk about that some other time. But they have a little room that’s like a closet and it’s literally the size of a closet. Looks like a call room and I would go in there, close the door, and I would work up my courage. And I would just call landscapers. I call them, to be funny to list, but I called everybody. I called Crabapple and BrightView and Yellowstone and Russell. And I mean you name it, Gives, I mean everybody. And when I would see a truck go by outside, I’d be like, write down the number and I’d call them. But I called everybody and I asked them and I said, hey, are you using robotic mowers? And I use the term robotic mowers. And they said, yeah. And I said, well, why not? And they said, it’s just for homeowners. It’s not for commercial. It’s not efficient. It doesn’t work for us. And if I could get them ahead of time, I would ask them, I said, well, if you could wave your magic wand and invent something, if I got them good enough to be able to do that, they would say, well, it’d be awesome if my mower had autopilot. And I thought oh or they said, gosh, if it was magical, I want a robotic worker. Literally could, like a robot that would stand on my existing mower and just use it. And I was like, oh, okay, interesting. And I said, well, can I know more? Can I find out more? And I convinced one of them to let me do a ride-along. 

So I put on my boots and grabbed a work shirt and a safety vest and I followed along and took pictures and video. And I remember asking one of the crew that I was in the truck with and I said, hey, what took the longest? And I remember timing it. And he said, oh man, it’s definitely the edging where like I had to like hold up the device and it’s real hard. And not edging but the tree trimming, like the bush. And he said, that took a while because I had to walk all the way over there and get all of them. And I said, yeah, that did but the longest was 18 minutes of the 36 on the job site was mowing. And he said, oh yeah, but we have to do that. And I said, well, but do you though? And he said, well, I mean how else would we do it? And I thought huh. So I mean there was a lot of like, I think the interesting thing about us coming in and being outsiders is somewhat good. Like they’re dumb questions that I asked that I look at it and say, oh wow, well, do you have to? Like there’s these sort of ingrained things like, oh, of course. And you may probably run into this with SingleOps. It’s like oh, well, of course, I have to write out the invoice. It’s like no, like you can totally text it to them. And they’re like can you? And so it’s like I think being able to have that sort of outsider is somewhat good and being able to ask those dumb questions has been actually a strength for us. But yeah, I remember doing that and being like a eureka moment. Like if we could build a robotic worker to do some of that repetitive work, like they could be doing other things like edging, weeding, blowing, filling out more invoices, doing enhancement work while the mower is finishing the job. And you could essentially do it one person or two people and do bigger sites that would normally require three or four. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s awesome. And as we go into the next topic, we’ve already touched on it a bunch. We talk about it probably weekly on this show. Labor in the green industry is just an issue. It’s something that there’s no silver bullet for it. I’d argue almost every week one topic we talk about is how to hire and then retain good employees. But Greenzie isn’t necessarily offering up to say like we can solve that problem as a whole but we can help and we can help you become more efficient with less. So I do want you to like go through how robotic mowers and what Greenzie is doing can actually help fight the labor issues that the industry faces every day. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. And it’s funny. I’ve got some competitors who are making some pretty wild claims about 50% reduction. And I’m an engineer so I’m not in sales and marketing. So I can’t do that. I’m not very good at the wishful thinking is what I would call it respectfully. Here’s the bottom line. If you’re thinking about, if you are a landscaper and you’re doing jobs, you probably don’t have enough crew. And so you’re probably really thinking like how do I retain and get more. And what I would ask I think if you were to adopt the Greenzie technology is thinking about it a little bit differently and maybe like I talked about that, doing the most important things. Are there things that you can be doing? Well, I’ll back up. So if you have some properties where you have some big fields because right now again it really excels on these big larger fields because we’re again automating these 52 and up machines that aren’t really, these don’t fit in a residential gate. But if you have these, I would think about constructing your crews around being able to do to take like a three or four person crew that normally goes in a box truck and has a bunch of these 60-inch mowers and reduce that by one and put that person on another job. We’re not saying get rid of that person. I mean if I told my customers right now that we’re getting rid of people, they’d say bull crap. I need everybody I got and then some. So what I’m saying is take those people who would normally be on that box truck or normally don’t show up, let’s be real. And so put them on other jobs and then use this crew with this technology, drop that crew size down to two people and let them go hit that job or have a mow crew who goes and literally maybe one person—and we’ve done this with our technology—you can even operate two mowers which is wild. Just divide it in half and we did some properties this year where we were just having two mowers. I think if you go to Greenzie.com, there’s actually video of a corporate office park where we just have two mowers going, divide it in half and they both are just striping. And use that and you can basically reduce your overall labor cost because this is crazy about this mower is with a robotic worker on the mower, when you think about it, this mower does not care if you use it 10 times in August and once in November for a cleanup. Guess who’s ready to go on March 1st, doesn’t complain, doesn’t get drunk, doesn’t show up, you know, with brown bottle flu and isn’t complaining? We could program that if you want to but nobody’s asked for that feature yet. But it’ll always be ready to mow rain or shine, mows in the dark, mows in the rain if you want it to, does not care. It’ll just stripe. It’s very efficient, very simplistic, and it just does one thing really well and that’s stripe a lawn. So yeah, you can reduce those overall labor costs if you’re thinking about it differently, if you’re putting together those crews differently and maybe having less or having dedicated mow crews. And we’re still experimenting with our customers to determine what that is. I don’t know what those numbers are but we’re seeing some labor savings right now and I’d be happy to go into those privately and do some ROI stuff with anybody who wants to do a demo and talk about that. Because it’s different for everybody, different seasonally, that kind of stuff. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. I hadn’t even really thought about the seasonality approach to it. Because one of the hardest parts about finding good labor is the fact that sometimes you have to cut your team during the off season. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

That was one of the questions I kind of asked too. It kind of challenged is I think people talk about—our software is by the way is monthly or yearly. I mean I think you guys are the same way. A lot of software is. And a lot of people ask, they’re like, well, what do I do in December with my workers? And I said, well, what do you do now? And they’re like fair enough. Right? So I mean also it’s like I mean I’m happy to prorate it or do something like that. But honestly, I think one of the benefits of it is thinking about it differently in terms of like is that how you price your work? I think some of the better landscapers actually in commercial price yearly and just account for that. So we’re going to do the same thing. I don’t want to nickel and dime. We thought about doing this crazy thing where originally pricing was based on like per hour and we were going to charge seven dollars an hour which is below minimum wage because robotic workers don’t care and they don’t get angry and don’t have unions yet. But we thought about it and I’m like, man, that feels like a cell phone plan where they’re like nickel and diming you and all we got to do is go slower and we make more money. And I was like ah, screw that. And same with like the acreage, it’s like I don’t want to be thinking about that. I just want something that shows up every time and is on the mower and I don’t have to think about it. And that’s proven true. So but again, we’re happy to change it if our customers tell us differently. But that one they like. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. And I definitely want to get into what some of the adoption side looks like and what it’s like to hear feedback from customers and what you’ve learned through the rollout. But I think before we can really do that, we’ve got to kind of get into the nitty-gritty of like how it works and like what it looks like. And not necessarily like high level like tech, like software how it works although I know that’s like what you’re passionate about, but more like how does it work for a guy that’s running a commercial landscape business and what would it look like from his perspective when you use your technology on a commercial lot? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. So let’s talk about that and let’s put ourselves maybe a year or two in the future and I’m always optimistic. So we’ll go two years in the future and what that means is that you’ve got Greenzie auto striping on one of your favorite stand-on commercial mowers. And so it’s a tool in your tool chest. And so when you go on a commercial site, what you do is you roll up to the site as usual, you’ve got your weekly maintenance that you’re doing, and what you’re doing that’s different is that you don’t have a giant crew. Maybe it’s just you or one other person. And you pull the mower off the truck and it instantly starts up. It’s got system software that just sort of runs almost like an appliance and that’s what we’re known for doing and done a really good job with. So it just works. And so it boots up and by the time you get it to where you need to mow, it’s ready to go. And what you do is you start mowing and you mow the outer, you maybe do some of the detailed work because again, these mowers are not very good at going around stuff like as much as we want them to be able to like jump the curb and us humans are so much better at that. And we can make it look pretty and make it more beautiful. We know what looks good. Robots don’t yet and I don’t think they ever will really to be honest with you. And so you do all the edge work and all that. And once you’re good to go and you’re like, all right, this thing just needs to be mowed, I need somebody to finish it, you literally just hit one button on the machine, you hit map and then what you do is you record you mowing a large section. You could call it the full thing, you could do the whole thing. We generally right now keep about 13 feet, we say 13 to 15 feet away from fences and trees and all that stuff. So these are big spots that we’re mowing. That gets smaller and smaller every time we do an update which is weekly. And so you mow a big section and then the mower just starts blinking and saying I can take over. And so you hop off the mower and you press one button on the remote control that you hold and you keep that just as a safety device. That’s one of the industrial safety standards. You have to have always a way to stop it. Hopefully, you never have to use it and we rarely do. But it’s a safety stop. And you just press mow and all it does is literally stripe inside that boundary of that area you did and it does the most efficient striping pattern. And then what’s cool is that if you did stripes 12 to 6 last time, it’ll do nine to three. It doesn’t do that now but it will. Right now it just chooses the most efficient. We’re mowing a lot of Class C properties where they’re like just get it done and they’re not doing back and forth. But it’ll do that for you and while it’s doing that, you can go to the truck, get a glass of water, go do enhancement work, go find something else that’s more high value, go talk to the customer, go do edging, weeding, blowing, go do tree work. Do something fun. Make the property look good. And then by the time you’re done, the mower will come back to the start and be ready to go to the next site. Put it on the truck and go to the next site. And we’re very close to being there if not already there. So that’s what we did all summer with our customers as subcontractors. Now we ran into a lot of issues because it was very prototype at that stage. But we are in a limited production build right now and small fleets right now. So that’s what our customers will be doing is that exact process. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. And so I follow you all on social media. I’ve been watching some of your videos that you produce as it’s been evolving. And it seems like every day, every week, there’s just like major updates you’re making to Greenzie’s process and how the mower is working. One of the things that I saw most interesting was you mentioned obstructions earlier. And while I do agree with you, it seems like no robot’s ever going to be able to perfectly master an obstruction. Y’all have made strides in that area. What does that look like? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. So we talk about two things and we’re getting good with the terminology. But there’s two terms we use obstacle detection and obstacle avoidance. And we’re probably going to fix these so I hope they don’t catch on. But obstacle detection refers to the ability to see smaller and smaller obstacles. Right now, we’re at the, we call it the soccer ball level. And so if you’ve got a sprinkler head or worse, we had one the other day, it was like a, there was a power pole and it had these little, like where the wire guard, like the guide wire kind of clips in and the wire was gone but the little like tie, metal tie was there. And clearly, a couple landscapers had obviously hit it before too because it had a bunch of dings taken out of it. But we can’t see that. The mower definitely can’t see that. So we tend to stay away from those areas and just humans are better at it. We can see it. We know what to do. I think we’ll get there eventually but right now, we’re at the soccer ball level. And so what that means is we are usually always doing it in controlled environments, fenced in areas, larger ones. And again, it keeps getting better and better. We used to be at, we called it the sloth level or dog level and we passed that. We’re down at like soccer ball and getting smaller. So we can see objects that small. We can detect them. Now what we do is different. Now what we did because we mowed a ton of places, it sees chairs and we mow a big property that has a like a corporate campus that has these chairs where people pull them out onto the yard and sit out there. And so what it does is it stops. And so the reason we do that is because generally if you’re mowing in an area, like you as an operator probably going to get a notification which it happens, you can see it or you can hear it because it pauses and you’re looking around and you’re side eyeing it. And so you go over and you move the chair or whatever and when you do, it takes back off. That way it maintains those nice stripes and keeps doing it efficiently. However, we have rolled out obstacle avoidance and that works and you can use that now. What happens there is if, for instance, there’s a tree or something you cannot move or a big power pole and you put that in the inner boundary of where you want to mow, you can actually press a button and we’re debating whether or not we want it to go automatic. There’s some debate about the safety standards and whether or not we can yet without enough data. But you can visually confirm that you do want to go around it. You can press one button and it will go around that obstacle. It leaves a very big distance around it. It’s something you’re going to have to come clean up with the mower yourself. I would not even edge it or weed it because it is pretty big and we can get closer and closer. We’re going to obviously do that. But for now, we leave a pretty big circle around it. You can actually see it. It’s probably about, I want to say a meter which is three feet which is quite a bit around it. But you’ll see a nice big circle. It takes a circle around the obstacle and then keeps going. And that works now. That’s just standard robotics 101. That’s path planning. And that’ll get continually better and better. Every update we have, it gets better and better. We’re actually using a different padding algorithm. As you said, on the technical side off, be careful if you get me off on that, I’ll go off on path planning and A-star and all these algorithms. But I’ll stop there. But yes, avoidance is something we want to get better and better at. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. And you mentioned too earlier that like right now, Greenzie’s like bread and butter is like C grade properties where it’s just like, hey, mow it, get it done. Is there a path towards like, not necessarily improving it but getting to where you can do like more complex properties? Is that part of your future road map or do you think you’ll stay more towards the larger commercial spaces? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Well, I think so because honestly we want to do what our customers tell us to do and if they need us to do that, we will do that. Obviously, where they’re running into some labor challenges is on some of these hard to staff properties, for the remote military bases, academies and schools and stuff. The class A stuff I mean that is small and looks good, like we can get humans to do that and they could probably do a better job. But if our customers want us to do it, we’ll do it. And we are doing, if you put it down, we have done some corporate campuses before and if you put it in, I’ll call it the slow mode, it can put down some very nice solid stripes and then we add a double cut so you can just hit the button again and it’ll double cut. And so it does look very good if you were to look at it. So I won’t say that. It definitely is like a jillion times better than a robo mower which in my mind looks like a drunk four-year-old did your lawn just back and forth all day long. So it definitely does look good. [inaudible 00:30:10] these commercial mowers that have some amazing decks. Like the right standard has an aerocore deck and the cut quality is just phenomenal. And the robot too just goes at exactly the right speed. These mowers have transport speed which is what everybody sometimes tries to cut at when they’re like in a hurry. And transport is like what you’re supposed to do to get over to the area you need to but you need to be going at like seven miles an hour or whatever the machine is capable of doing. And our robots go exactly that. Like they do not waver, they do not like speed up. Their turns are zero turns. So they’re perfect. They don’t rub the lawn. So there’s some other benefits. It’s funny. Like we had a man versus machine and we challenged one of our guys and he was faster for sure on the turns. He’s faster in everything. But he did stop in the middle and was like, all right, he’s getting a little tired and he like changed his headphones or whatever and like texted us and made a call or whatever. And our machine just did not stop for an hour. Just like straight, did not stop. And so it caught back up with him which is kind of fun to think about. But yeah, we would love to get there. But we’re listening to our customers. Whatever they want, we’ll build next. 

Ty Deemer:

Awesome. My next question and this question is mainly coming from our experience as a software provider, anytime you introduce technology, there’s going to be people who might be a little bit like averse to it, just not really thinking that tech is something they want to embrace. And obviously, you all are still in the early stages. You’re talking to people that have a natural draw and a want for a solution to their problem of automating some of these things. But what’s your pitch or what’s your thought process towards a leader of a lawn care or a landscape company that’s kind of on the fence about using automation? What is the angle there where you go like, look, like this is the benefit. It’s up to you to decide. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah, no. I like the question. You’re right. We’re lucky in that we’re early stage so we are talking to some of the more progressive landscapers who really want these solutions. As I think about it, like I will say this. We do get this challenge a lot and that I think a lot of landscapers go, they look at it and they go, oh well, that’s great but does it also, can it also handle these massive slopes and can it jump over the curb and go finish this one and can it save the map and redo it next time? And, and, and. And I’m sure you’re used to this. I do this too in stuff that I want. I’m like, man, it’d be cool if it did everything. And then I go and I think about it and what I challenge them is I say, no, it does not. It really does one thing well and that’s really it so far. But honestly, go look at your truck. Do you have one tool that literally does it all? And they go, oh, that’s fair too. Right? I’ve got a push mower. I’ve got a like a quality mower. I’ve got a 36. I’ve got a 61. I’ve got a 72 sit down and an edger and a weeder and all these other things and the backpack blower and regular blower and small blower and all this other stuff. So I would challenge them to sort of think like that and be like it does not do everything yet. It is a tool that you have to think about to deploy. And again, I think once I challenge them, they sort of say, like well, yeah, I don’t want something that does it all. Like there’s some things I enjoy doing. But there is some repetitive stuff I hope that they get at that they kind of start to resonate with us and say, you know what? I don’t have to be on the mower the entire time. That makes sense. like what I would love to do is… And I think the other thing I think that really gets them is when we talk about safety, it’s interesting because the safety is a huge, huge component and it keeps me up at night and for sure it should. But when I think about it, when I think longer term, I think we’ll look back and actually say the opposite. I think we’ll look back and wonder why we put humans on these dangerous machines prone to rollovers and cuts and burns when a robot is better suited to do that type of dangerous work. I think it’s just because we have to now, there doesn’t exist, our solution isn’t everywhere yet. So on the safety question, I think we’ll get there and to do that, we do need to get the data and we do need to have the hours and we put it out there and detect smaller and smaller obstacles and get better at avoidance and all that other stuff which we are doing and actively doing. So I think when we talk about that, I think it’s knowing which tool is good for the job. I think the other thing is talking about safety in a longer term, like correct way which is thinking about safety holistically and not just the standard use case. But those things are things that help our customers realize value. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. And then another follow-up question to that is naturally it happens with any software or any tech business that the owner is going to have a different mindset towards it than the crew leader or the team member out in the field. And what’s been the perception of the automated mower out in the field with the fleet testing that you’ve done? Do the crews like working with it? Like what’s the perception there? I’m interested to hear. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

No, I’m glad you said that because that’s actually a really huge concern that even my developers do and that I’m lucky that I’ve hired smart enough people that they picked up on this probably sooner than I did. And so it happens with the people that I hired, we have a term for that and we call that, and I don’t know what, it’s probably derogatory but I’ll say it anyway, we have people like me who wear shirts like me which is the collar polo that has my logo and then we have another shirt that is the, it’s the yellow high-res sweat-inducing like long-sleeve that it gets dirty as crap. And there’s two different types of people and we need to work for both. It needs very good reporting so that the business people and people who wear the polos can be happy and it also needs to freaking work and be super simple and help them and not get in their way. So we take great care to design things and we listen hard to both people. One of the smarter things we did was we hired a robotic technician a guy named Yorick who used to own a landscaping company. He’s Guatemalan and he works harder than anybody in the company and he’s smarter than all of us too and he knows it. And when he goes out, it’s funny. Like sometimes they’ll come over to both of us and they’ll ask him questions in full Spanish. And I speak decent Spanish but not as good as him. And he’ll tell him how it really works and then the people, the VP of ops comes over to me and asks like how is it reporting, how’s the security. And I can answer those and he can answer those. But it’s tough. We actually have to design for both. Like I think we do not win if it doesn’t work for either. But you had to make me pick who’s the most important, it’d be the ones doing the job. That’s for damn sure. So I’ll just leave it at that. It is very cognizant and we have to design for both. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. I totally get it. We interact with the same things. If the crews and the crew leaders and the people out doing the actual work don’t like it or don’t enjoy it and don’t see how it contributes to their job, the buy-in, if that doesn’t exist, then it’s really hard to get it off the ground and running. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. I like how you said that too. I think that that’s a key crucial difference and I’m writing that down. So thank you for that. Taking notes. If they don’t see the why and how it helps them and how it contributes to the bigger mission, which I love that your audience all knows too. I think when you have happy employed workers who know how they’re contributing towards whatever your company’s mission is, maybe it is to make more money and go home earlier. But if you don’t state that and your employees don’t buy in and want to do that, then it’s going to be awful tough if you’re just being a task master. They’re going to be like, well, why? And if you can tie it back to like the reason why you do it, it’s like it’s so that our company can do this, it’s so that we can do this. So yeah, I’m taking notes on that. Tie it back to the why for sure. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. So one thing that I think would be really interesting just the stage that Greenzie’s at and everything that you’ve experienced over the last couple years, do you have like a favorite failure with Greenzie so far or a lesson learned that maybe really changed the trajectory of what you all were doing? Because you really are in like the new frontier in a lot of ways with what y’all are doing. I’m sure there’s been some tough lessons along the way. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. Wow, I even knew you were going to ask this question and I was hoping I could punt and say even generally like myself. But let me see if I can try for Greenzie. I think one of the things that was interesting is when we started, we were on electric commercial mowers because we thought electric was the future. We were not practicing that value. Even when our customers sort of hinted at us, they said, those don’t really have the endurance. And I was like oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, we know but I think we can get it there if our machine is very optimal and we’re not running it at full thing and our turns will be good and like we can eek more energy out of it and plus we could put two out there instead of one. And they were like, oh, I don’t know about that. So we based a lot of our—and also too, electric was just sort of easier for us to automate in the beginning because mechanical stuff was hard. We actually solved that and solved it actually 10X better and I get to that. But I think our original failure was trying to go after that when our customers really didn’t want it and they told us. And I remember, it’s funny, one of my customers was like, after we said, hey, yeah, electric doesn’t have the endurance, they said, I told you so. And I remember being like, yeah, I know you did. I just was hoping that you were wrong. I think that was a huge failure. I think even though I say that I’m like listening to my customers, part of it is funny. One of my co-founders even says this and I agree with him. He says, listen to your customers but qualify what they say because sometimes they don’t know what’s hard and they don’t know what’s possible. Right? I think there’s a funny quote that is misattributed to Henry Ford. And it said if Henry Ford asked his customers, what do I build, they’d say, build a faster horse. Instead, he built a car which they didn’t know even could be done or existed. And that’s false. But that’s not a good story. But the point is you have to listen within reason. Like what did they want? They wanted a more reliable, better way to get somewhere faster. And so he built that as opposed to just the faster horse which was the thing that everybody used at the time. So yeah, I would say that was a big failure. I got plenty. I got lots. I fail hard every day. But the good news is I’m an entrepreneur. So when I look back, I’m like, oh man, that was a good one. That was a good learning experience. And so a lot of times what’s funny at Greenzie, we like to do something called a retrospective and that’s part of one of our core values of kaizen is relentlessly reflecting. We call it [inaudible 00:40:29] kaizen and it means we relentlessly reflect. And so after we do something, I tell people of Greenzie, you can’t get into trouble for making a mistake. I don’t penalize anybody for making mistakes. What you can get in trouble for is making the same one again. That’s the fatal flaw is not learning from your mistakes and either fixing it or doing something differently. That one will definitely get you in trouble. And so learning from your mistakes is fun. Sometimes we don’t even think about it as failure. We go, man, that was a great learning experience or like man, we learned a lot through that. The next one’s going to be even better and the next one’s going to be better and the next one. So I think about that. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. Learning by doing. And that’s a great transition to kind of the end of the show is because we spend a lot of time reflecting on this podcast. It’s a lot of looking back and analyzing how did we get to where we are, what we’ve been doing. And I think we can kind of finish off by touching on you and your company are on the cutting edge of the green industry. You’re going down a new path that we’ll see like how it affects the industry. What do you view your vision for the future of landscaping and lawn care services and how those could be impacted by automation like you all are doing? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah. Well, the future of landscaping is humans. You would think that I would say it’s robots. But honestly, I think it’s a different kind of crew. I think it’s robotic technicians. I think it’s software friendly. I envision a day when as a landscaper, I could have a job that I love where I take my kick-ass cyber truck out and I go through the neighborhood and I throw out these little devices and I program in a cool logo of a sports team or something that I know my customers will like and the mowers just do it on their yard. And then I drive around and think about ways to make things look more beautiful and my customers even happier. And text them and be like, hey, I put the UGA logo in your yard because your neighbor had GT out or whatever. And just I think it’s a more fun and I use technology to enable and make my life and your life better and I’m doing this. And that would be my vision would be a beautiful synergy of humans working together with technology, using the best technology, be it robotics, be it software, be it a CRM that’s smart and can tell them exactly what they need to do next. That would be awesome and I think we’re headed there. I think there’s glimpses and moments of it every day and that’s what honestly gets me excited. I’m also just excited because we’re applied roboticists and I’m not pretending that this hasn’t been done before. People have tried this. So when I talk to landscapers, they’re like, great, I knew this was coming. I just did not expect it to be this far along. So plenty of people have tried to do this in commercial and tried to build a better commercial version of this for quite some time. I think we just chose the right time and we’re doing it the right way. And so it frankly excites me to see our customers be successful and ultimately us be successful as well. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, for sure. And I’d love for you to kind of double down on that because we always try to end each show and ask just the guests like what are you most excited about and what comes next for you? That can be personally or with Greenzie as a whole. What’s kind of something on the horizon with you all that that’s been getting you and your team fired up lately? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Well, the grass is growing and season’s starting. We are very hyper focused on success for our customers this season. We want our current customers to be reference customers for us. And so we’re doing everything we can to make them happy. We are heads down making the best product, the most useful, rugged, reliable, safe, efficient and it just excites me every day to wake up and problem solve with my team everything from layout of the controller to the top thing to make it easier for them. And so I just get excited every day. But I’m really excited about this season. This is a big season for us and a big season for our customers who have trusted us to help them reduce the cost of labor. So I’m just excited to get out there and hopefully watch a mower stripe a lawn. I would love nothing more than to be bored out there like we did last summer on the good days. I feel like the team would be like, hey, I would go knock and be like, hey, is the support channel working? Like is the customer calls working? And they’re like, yeah, nobody’s called. And I’m like yes, like that’s great because that means it’s working. There were some days where it was just blowing up and everything was not working but we got through that. More days like that. That’s what I’m excited about. 

Ty Deemer:

And then, CBQ, we’ve covered a ton of great topics about Greenzie, about automation in the space, how you went from seeing a problem and creating a solution and I think the audience will have gotten a ton of value out of it. Maybe they had never heard of like automation to this day on the space before and they had only thought of the typical robo mowers that you had talked about earlier on in the show. if someone that’s listening to this episode was interested in what you and the team at Greenzie are doing, how could they engage with you all, how could they be up-to-date with everything that’s going on and possibly start to look to work with you? 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for asking and allowing me the platform to do it. Instagram is a great channel. We post a ton of fun stuff. I’d say follow us on there. We’re constantly posting about our progress. YouTube is another great one. Just subscribe. We’ve got actually a great series out there called How It Works. The latest one is, that’s where I break down everything from like how the actual technology works, obstacle avoidance, obstacle detection. I found that those resonate with our audience who are progressive and really want to understand how the technology works. We post a lot on there. There’s some salesy videos on there. You can ignore those. Those are for the investors and people who don’t believe yet. But yeah, go to the How It Works. Just dig right in. I would say both those channels are good. You can also go to our website. It’s a little old as always and never gets up to date. But YouTube and Instagram are my favorite. On Twitter, that’s where we recruit all the roboticists so that’s very corny and cheesy. You can go on that one if you want but we’re more kitschy and cheeky on that one. And I need to figure out Facebook. I need to get back on there. I haven’t been on Facebook in a while. I’m going to admit it. But I think there’s some really good groups, small business owners, that kind of stuff. So I’m trying to get back into that. I would say those two. Thanks for asking. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, like I mentioned earlier, we covered a ton of great topics and I think it’ll be a really interesting, unique episode for people to consume and learn more about automation in the space. Can’t thank you enough for your time and joining us. And I’m really excited to see the path Greenzie takes over the next couple of years. 

Charles Brian Quinn:

Well, thank you. Keep up the great work that you do. Thank you.

Conclusion:

Thanks for listening to this episode of Green Industry Perspectives, presented by SingleOps. If you got some value out of this episode, drop us a five-star review on your favorite streaming platform. And don’t forget to become a pro member of the podcast at SingleOps.com/podcast. As a pro member, you’ll get notified of each new episode, access to exclusive bonus content, and be entered in to win some great prizes. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to tune in next week.