Three cool projects

Departments - Editor's Insight

February 13, 2013

Chuck Bowen

I spent a few days down in Orlando last month for the PLANET Lawn Care Summit and Real Green Systems Users Conference. Together, they provide LCOs with some of the best education currently available on how to run their businesses better.

The week was chock full of sessions about mergers and acquisitions, technical updates on the latest products and other solid education that’s key for so many companies. But two speakers blew me away and illustrated the fact that there are a lot of smart people working very hard to put science and real numbers behind the green industry.

To wit: Dr. Mark Schmidt from John Deere and Mike Dukes from the University of Florida.

Schmidt, Deere’s chief scientist, heads up a brain trust of folks working on a concept called ecological services. It’s an idea that’s found purchase in the ag and forestry industries and makes sense for landscaping as well.

The goal is to assign values to the various pieces and parts that make up a landscape – the trees, the water reclamation ability, carbon sequestered, even the pleasure people get from taking a walk in the park – and use those numbers to show that in a true cost-benefit analysis, landscaping has a net benefit to the world.

Yes, it’s a bit harder to quantify and put a value on the pleasure of a long walk in the woods than the market price of a truckload of soybeans or pine boards. But the approach and the effort are laudable.

The idea of ecological services moves the industry away from the idea that plants are pretty and nice, but not really necessary, and brings to the fore the idea that yes, landscapes are worth something, and likely worth more than a lot of people realize.

Second, Mike Dukes, a professor at the University of Florida, who’s working with the Southern Florida Water Management District to quantify the impact of smart controllers in various landscapes.

His work, among other things, is being used to develop standard irrigation codes for municipalities, so the industry gets a fair – and scientific – shake when it comes to regulations.

Third is our own report, Grow the Market. It’s the first post-recession study of consumer attitudes and how homeowners perceive landscapers. This first-of-its-kind report is designed to help landscapers and lawn care operators target customers more effectively and grow their market share intelligently.

Each of these three projects will help you grow and be more successful, either tomorrow or in the future. Some of the science may be wonky, but folks like Schmidt and Dukes are key to the long-term viability of the green industry.


– Chuck Bowen