Robotic groundsman gets to work on South West football pitch

Editorin Football

Technology with regard to ground maintenance is not quite on the agendas of Football Clubs across East Devon - yet!

However, it is very much being looked at and utalised by clubs further up the football pyramid and now there's news of robotic ground staff breaking into the game.

Forest Green Rovers, who play in the Blue Square Premier Division will have a cutting edge for their final home game of the season tomorrow with a new addition to the team - the UK's first electric 'mow-bot'. The robotic mower puts the Rovers in the same league as Bayern Munich, who also care for pitch and planet using the same revolutionary technology.

The 'mow-bot' will use GPS technology to automatically mow the pitch without the need for human intervention - saving groundsmen up to 50% of their working week or over 100 days of labour - and even sends a text if it runs into trouble.

Powered from 100% green electricity from solar panels on The New Lawn stadium roof, the eco-friendly R2D2 will trim the club's carbon footprint as well as the grass, and can be used for other sporting pitches such as rugby and cricket.

Forest Green is becoming a test-bed for the Sustainability in Sport foundation - established by FGR Chairman Dale Vince and former-Manchester United player Gary Neville - demonstrating the best green tactics to recommend to sports clubs across the UK.

The club has already scored several green goals by installing solar power on the stadium roof, recycling pitch water and launching the first ever meat-free (and low carbon) football menu - leading international company Etesia to chose Forest Green as the UK pioneer for their fleet of emission-free pitch equipment.

Forest Green Groundsman Stuart Ward is no stranger to innovation and is working towards creating Britain's first organic football pitch at The New Lawn stadium. He also became the first person in the Britain to trial Etesia's ride-on biodiesel mower, an innovation now being tested by the Houses of Parliament.

Ward said: "It's really exciting to be trialing these products, the robot saves me time and there's no more dirty fuel or noise to deal with either.

"The time I used to spend mowing can now be utilised tending to the pitch in other ways to make it the best possible surface for the players."

The new mow-bot will even help the club reach its target of creating a 100% organic pitch, by creating organic mulch which fertilizes the pitch as it works.

Etesia General Manager Les Malin said: "We feel FGR are setting the best example for other clubs, not just in football but in all sports.

"Forest Green Rovers is the first football club in this country to use electric and robotic mowing for its pitch."

The game against Darlington on Saturday will celebrate another step forward for 'game changing' green innovation in sport, and the potential doesn't stop there.

Etesia hopes that Forest Green's pioneering approach will spread across UK industry, leading to some surprising comparisons between the pitches, farms and gardens of Britain and Bayern Munich FC.

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