In The Field: Electric & Robotic Mowers

In the first in a series of three case studies that exhibit when new tech is the right fit for both landscape company and client, we take a look at Focal Pointe at Washington University.

Compiled by Turf Editors
From the April 2024 Issue
  • Landscape Company: Focal Pointe
  • Location: Washington University
  • Goals: Contribute To Client Sustainability, Quieter Campus
  • Solution: 10 Electric Commercial Mowers

Like most universities, Washington University in St. Louis, MO, has a very narrow window to win over a prospective student and often, a student’s first impression is the grounds.

When Wash U needed a reliable landscaping partner, they found it in Focal Pointe, a full service landscape company with branches in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma that specializes in university and business campus maintenance. “Their mission is aligned with ours,” says Chris Anderson, ground services manager at Wash U. “Focal Pointe is an unbelievable partner focused on relationship building first, followed closely by great work, which I appreciate.”

Wash U serves more than 15,000 students with a 170-acre main campus, 140-acre medical school campus, and multiple off-campus properties. The focus on landscaping is evident throughout the beautiful grounds. Wash U aspires to become a Level III Arboretum, with over 330 species of trees dotting university lawns. Another goal is reducing turf and increasing sustainable plantscapes.

Electric Commercial Mowers, Washington University
Focal Pointe landscape employees utilize 10 quiet, battery-powered Toro GrandStand Revolution mowers on the Washington University campus. (Photo: Toro)


A core priority of Wash U is sustainability. The university focuses on eight segments, including: Energy & Emissions, Buildings, Community, Food, Landscape, Transportation, and Waste and Water. And while the sustainability team didn’t place specific equipment demands on Focal Pointe, the proactive landscaping company had a forward-approach from day one. The crew showed up to campus the first day with propane-powered equipment. They knew propane was a sustainable option as it burns efficiently. It benefited the crew, as well, since they were able to mow longer between fill-ups.

For Focal Pointe owner John Munie and his team, operations and equipment are what will serve the client best. In general, today’s clients are looking to explore alternative powertrains — and if Focal Pointe can get the same quality cut from a propane mower — or battery-powered equipment, they’re on board. “We want to be as sustainable as we can, produce fewer emissions, and create a smaller carbon footprint,” says Focal Pointe branch manager, Michael Kirchoff. “We’re always looking for the best solution for our clients not only from a quality and value perspective but mission and culture as well. Those are the reasons we look past current practices. If it’s better for our client and in this case, the environment, then it’s something we’re interested in.”

Over the past few years, Focal Pointe and Wash U often talked about the positive effects electric equipment could have on the school’s sustainability goals. Those conversations led Focal Pointe to keep a close eye on evolving battery technology. The team knew they wanted mowers that were not only sustainable, but were less noisy.

As a result, in 2023, Focal Pointe bought ten battery-powered Toro® GrandStand® Revolution mowers. The Focal Pointe team considered the purchase an investment in their commitment to helping the environment and delivering quality service. “The new mowers are what’s best for the environment and help us reflect our client’s brands and values,” says Kirchoff.

“Purchasing those mowers shows how serious Focal Pointe is about our mission, perhaps as serious as we are — as well as the direction they’re looking to go as a company.”

— Chris Anderson, Ground Services Manager, Washington University

In addition to the environmental positives, the mowers are also remarkably quiet—a great advantage on a campus where students are learning. And from the operator’s standpoint, battery-powered mowers are more comfortable, as well, since they run cooler and do not create noise fatigue. “Our guys realized they were quieter and produced the same mow. Plus, the crew isn’t filling propane tanks in the morning or lugging a fuel can around all day. They get to the site, step out of their truck and onto the mower. That’s it,” says Kirchoff.

The mowers run as long as the Focal Pointe crew, then charge to 100% overnight. “I’ve been checking the mowers after they come in daily and there’s still battery life there. We’re getting plenty of runtime without adjusting our mowing schedule,” says Kirchoff. And while some facilities may need to update infrastructure when transitioning to electric equipment, Focal Pointe was fortunate and only needed to move a few things around to access the proper outlets. “The reorganization actually made the flow of the shop and storage area better,” comments Kirchoff.

While the decision to move to battery-powered mowers wasn’t driven by Wash U, the move falls directly in line with their goals. “Purchasing those mowers shows how serious Focal Pointe is about our mission, perhaps as serious as we are — as well as the direction they’re looking to go as a company,” says Anderson. “They are very proactive in seeking out the latest and most efficient equipment, but I’m not surprised.  They’re just an amazing company. Talk is cheap, but Focal Pointe backs up what they say.”

The battery-powered mowers have made a great, sustainable impact on the university, positioning it as a future-forward institution. Visitors notice them on campus, experience the lack of noise and engine emissions, and see the university’s sustainability commitment reflected in real time. As for Focal Pointe, the success at Wash U has inspired them to expand battery mowing options in other branches. It’s been an exciting transition for all.

Next up: Turfscape at John Carroll University

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