In The Field: Turfscape At John Carroll University

In the second of a three-part series of case studies, we take a look at Turfscape's deployment of two electric autonomous mowers at John Carroll University.

Compiled by Turf Editors
From the April 2024 Issue
  • Landscape Company: Turfscape
  • Location: John Carroll University
  • Goals: Work Efficiency, Sports Field Maintenance
  • Solution: Two Electric, Autonomous Mowers

John Carroll University (JCU) is a 60-acre campus just outside of Cleveland, OH. Like Wash U, as an educational institution, expectations for pristine grounds are high. But at JCU, it’s also about maintaining the school’s baseball, softball, and athletic practice fields at a championship level.

Turfscape, a landscape contractor that specializes in creating and maintaining commercial properties in northeastern Ohio, provides a full-service grounds maintenance program at JCU that includes lawn care, mowing and maintenance, trash patrol, and Spring and Fall cleanup. With all these responsibilities, time is a precious commodity for the Turfscape crew.

With their manual equipment, Turfscape operators were tied to their mowers and could not multitask — which is how two all-electric, fully autonomous mowers entered the picture. Leading the crew, Turfscape field manager Joe Laduca and job supervisor Taylor Laduca deployed a pair of Scythe M.52 units. They realized the mowers had the potential to positively change how they performed their jobs. Indeed, the arrival of autonomous mowers immediately multiplied what they could do.

John Carroll University
Joe and Taylor Laduca of Turfscape have found that using a Scythe autonomous mower is like adding another crew member to the team. (Photo: Scythe)


“Before, I would alternate weeks trimming and edging the baseball and softball fields,” Taylor says, describing the task flow for maintaining the athletics complex. “But now with the robot on the crew, I can do both on a weekly basis, assuring that the quality is always up to par.” Taylor is also able to lay the chalk lines, hand water the infield, and pick up trash before each practice, getting more done than he ever could before.

Autonomous mowing allows Joe to focus on the rest of the program’s requirements across campus and proactively tackle the to-do list. “When M.52 is on the job, I can concentrate on my customer’s needs and do more of the detailed work – pruning, weed pulling, and inspections. We can take care of the stuff I have always wanted to do but didn’t have the time to before.”

The Turfscape operators say using the autonomous mowers is equivalent to adding another crew member to the team (without adding labor costs), since it increased efficiencies and expanded the work the crew could do with the time allotted.

Getting more work done to a higher level of quality increased overall client satisfaction at John Carroll University. “They are able to see how much more we’ve been able to get done with the same amount of people,” comments Joe.

On the baseball fields, the robotic mower still lays stripes that impress athletes and fans alike. “I love the absolute straight lines that M.52 will lay down. Really, it’s amazing what the machine can do,” Taylor says. He added that the university’s coaches and athletes greatly appreciate the extra attention to detail the crew has provided now that robotic mowers free them up to do more.

John Carroll University
On the baseball fields, the autonomous mowers can lay stripes that impress athletes and fans alike. (Photo: Scythe)


The benefits of electric mowers are experienced across campus, too. As at Wash U, the battery powered mowers operate quietly without disrupting classes and the emission-free aspect aligns with the university’s sustainability initiatives. Students are also regularly interested in the robotic mowers, stopping as they walk across campus to take photos or ask the operators questions. They are impressed to see this type of technology used at their school. “Everyone is amazed. Everyone has questions,” Joe comments.

“Adding technology like this will benefit everyone and won’t take jobs away from crews. It will help crews accomplish more and do a better job overall.”

— Taylor Laduca


In addition to client benefits, Joe and Taylor also enjoy getting the mowing done with robots. They both feel the possibilities are endless when adding them to a crew. “One of the most common questions I get is, ‘Are you afraid that it’s going to take your job?’” Joe explains. “And the answer is, no I’m not. At first, I was a little skeptical like that, but now that I’ve mowed with M.52, I couldn’t imagine working any other way.” Taylor shared a similar sentiment on the same topic: “Adding technology like this will benefit everyone and won’t take jobs away from crews. It will help crews accomplish more and do a better job overall.”

The operators also describe a sense of empowerment and pride they feel when mowing with the latest technology. “It’s a really cool feeling knowing that people want to check in and see what we are doing,” Joe says. “Not to sound cliché but being on M.52 kind of makes me feel like a boss,” Taylor elaborates. “You really do feel a kind of empowerment knowing that there is nothing like this nearby and I’m the one operating it. I get a lot of joy seeing people and their smiles as it goes by.”

A critical element in a successful deployment of autonomous technology is excitement about its potential from the top-down, which leadership at Turfscape embraced from the start. They helped operators understand how the robotic mowers will improve the quality of their work and advance their careers. If operators are excited and feel supported by management, the deployment will be beneficial for the crew, the company, and their clients — just like it is at JCU.

“It’s important for us as an innovative company to stay ahead of the curve,” Joe says. “We want to be sprinting with this technology while everyone is crawling.”

Next up: Grass Routes Mowing Services tackles steep Hawaiian hillsides

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