The latest blog from idverde’s Angus Lindsay.

Electric power is on the increase. Be it in luxury cars or cordless drills, the humble battery has come a long way from the lead acid lump which languished under the bonnet, all but forgotten until that cold morning when it demanded the attention of a set of jump leads. Today’s technology has given us smaller, more powerful, more efficient and, barring a few melting phones, safer batteries, giving machinery manufacturers a clean canvas on which to design the next generation of power tools.

The main manufacturers in this field, Stihl, Husqvarana, Pellenc, and Bosch, are working hard to use these new power sources to bring us the next generation of super-efficient zero-emission machines. It is up to us, the end users, to embrace these and make them part of our equipment fleet of the future. Sure, it will take a bit of persuasion to get the hardened strimmer pilot to change from the high revving two-stroke machine they’ve grown up with to a lightweight, high torque option, but consider the benefits; no emissions, lower vibration, less strain on the operator, no fuel issues, fewer moving parts, and possibly less susceptibility to theft as you are able to separate the battery from the tool.

In October this year, Husqvarana held their annual Silent City conference, which not only promoted the use of their electric range of power tools, but more importantly presented their Future Urban Parks Report. The basis of the report was to look at the role of the urban park in 2030 and was the combination of thoughts from 533 landscape architecture students from all over the world. The results make for interesting reading. With increasing pressure on land for building housing for our increasing population, green spaces within today’s cities are under greater pressure and becoming more important. Consider if you will, pocket parks, pop up parks within buildings, rooftop parks, linear parks along canals and river courses, and even vertical parks. The mind boggles.

Done with camera beside tree

Does this have a place in today’s landscaping world?

So where does technology fit in? Low emission electric power tools are available now, but what about using drones to inspect trees, water courses or field drainage? The drone is becoming more prevalent in agriculture to monitor crop health, so I don’t think it will be long before we see them inspecting trees. How about sensors in trees to monitor air and water quality, the health of the tree and the general health of the park? I have talked before about robotic mowers and how their use is increasing, and here is an interesting statistic for you: one in three mowers sold in Sweden is a robotic mower, and they are not all trundling round gardens. Several contractors across Northern Europe now use robotic mowers to cut sites as diverse as security perimeters, to business park lawns, and even roundabouts on busy road junctions.

One thing that all those attending the conference were in agreement with was that we need to get more people out into our parks, and as an industry we all have a responsibility to do our bit to make this happen. It is too easy for children today to sit using their phones or tablets and completely miss out on the outdoor growing up experience that our parks are there for. But the park needs to be more than just a green space with a play area; they need to embrace new technology and become more interactive. This was the approach taken by one Dutch contractor who has developed an app similar to Pokémon Go, but based around parks and wildlife, and guess what? Use of the parks where it was available has increased. It just goes to show, that with some creativity, technology can have an important role to play in the future of our parks.

Angus’s blog article is also published in the December 2016 issue of Pro Landscaper magazine, with the title ‘Power Range’.