By Brian Lowe
Director of Sales & Marketing
Progressive Turf Equipment Inc.
It may seem a little odd, but Progressive Turf Equipment recently show cased the innovative Slope-Pro® steep slope mower at the recent Florida Turfgrass Producers field day, held at Bethel Farms. The three year old engineering test 'mule' on display certainly attracted a lot of questions.
In case you missed it, a Slope-Pro is a remote controlled mower that is capable of operating on a side slope up to 50 degrees! To put this into perspective, you have to climb a 50 degree slope, you cannot walk up a slope that steep. Considering that a ride-on zero turn mower (ZTR) should not be operated on slopes greater than 15 degrees, Slope-Pro's 50 degree capability opens up areas considered too treacherous to maintain by other means, including areas close to water or drop-offs. There are other mowers that claim to have steep slope capability, albeit much less than 50 degrees, but they require doubling up tires, shifting operator weight or some other means to enhance stability. However, the operator still needs to ride on those machines placing the person in a potentially dangerous position. The same concern holds true for hand held string trimmers; the operator is still on the slope. When mowing on steep slopes, Slope-Pro's remote operation is a huge advantage when a slip and fall or a roll-over accident is a concern.
Like all of Progressive's mowers, the Slope-Pro is a rotary mower. Introduced to the market in 2011, it has twin spindles / blades that produce a 52 inch wide cut and an adjustable cut height between 2.25" and 8". Powered by a 27 HP Kohler gas engine, the Slope-Pro can cut vegetation up to ¾" thick, 300 feet away from the operator and at travel speeds up to 6 mph. Running on rubber tracks it features great maneuverability and low ground pressure.
Back to the turfgrass show; so why did Progressive bring the Slope-Pro to the field day and show it alongside the new TDR-30G and TDR-22G roller finishing mowers? The Slope-Pro is a good example of how the sharing of technology benefits all of our mowers. Several of the features now found in our larger sod mowers are also found in the Slope-Pro, and vice versa. A key design philosophy at Progressive is a drive to reduce maintenance requirements and thus the cost of operation, on all of our mowers. For example, reducing the number of grease points (the Slope-Pro has only two), extending PTO greasing intervals, and incorporating features such as maintenance free blade spindles is just some of the game changing features we've shared. After several years of successful testing, Progressive has the confidence to include maintenance free blade spindles as standard equipment on all of our large sod mowers, as well as the Slope-Pro, saving owners time and money. Looking at the production side, saving a half hour each day greasing a 22 foot mower is like getting a 1½ foot wider mower for free! Similarly, Progressive's Pro-Ez blade change system of replaceable blade tips are available as on option on both our large sod mowers and the Slope-Pro.
Is there an application for a Slope-Pro on a turf farm? Maybe not in a production sense, but during my presentation at the field day, I mentioned that I was recently on a farm in southern Alabama where there were several Cottonmouths nesting in an irrigation ditch that separated two fields. A Slope-Pro would be able to safely discourage nesting in that area.
The opportunity to showcase the capability of Progressive Turf Equipment and the benefits of the cross-over in technology in front of an informed audience was too great an opportunity to pass up. And who knows what the future will bring? A remote controlled 30 foot sod mower perhaps?
Production and utilization rates are important considerations when purchasing any piece of equipment and Progressive appreciates the importance of this. The Slope-Pro® is truly an industrial mower intended to mow in conditions that would be considered too hazardous with other methods. However, a single site may not be able to provide the utilization that would justify a purchase. On the other hand, a contractor that can service several sites, such as landfills, interstate overpasses, dikes, and retention berms etc., on a rotating basis, can achieve a high utilization rate and be fairly compensated for the difficult tasks at hand. Thus, a viable stand-alone business can be created serving the needs of many customers.