Manufacturers respond to contractors’ demands for products that do more work while saving labor.

Trade shows are great for networking, renewing business acquaintances and getting away from the daily grind. But mostly we go to trade shows to see and learn something new. This year’s record-breaking GIE+EXPO (see “A Record Breaker” below) didn’t disappoint on either score.

The 2014 GIE+EXPO on October 22-24 offered more than 100 new products from 68 different companies. Exhibiting companies, responding to end users’ demands for equipment capable of doing more work comfortably and efficiently. The two words “more” and “faster” dominated discussions at exhibitors’ booths at this year’s EXPO.

Without wasting words (and your time), let’s start with two of the most unique new products appearing at the 2014 EXPO, then circle back to more traditional technologies and products.

Tweel’ing and killing with cold

The TWEEL – yes, the TWEEL – fits the definition of unique. The Tweel is so named because it is a combination radial wheel and tire. Perfected by the global tire manufacturer Michelin, this unique product is being introduced into the commercial mowing market by John Deere. Deere is offering the airless, radial X Tweel Turf as an option on its ZTrak 900 series mowers with 54-, 60- and 72-inch decks.

The TWEEL, with poly-resin spokes and automotive-style technology tread, virtually eliminates flat tires, says Michelin’s Ralph Dimenna.

John Deere unveiled the Michelin X TWEEL Turf for its ZTrak 900 Series mowers. The TWEEL will greatly reduce downtime caused by flat tires, says Deere. PHOTO: JOHN DEERE

But eliminating flat tires is just one advantage offered by the X TWEEL Turf, says Dimenna, adding that its tread will last up to three times longer than standard turf tires. Dimenna adds that the X TWEEL Turf will also enhance operator comfort. Also, because the TWEEL has the same dimensions and bolt pattern as a standard 24x12x12 tire, you just bolt it on and it’s ready to go.

On-the-job flat tires can be big production-killers in commercial mowing. But are they a big enough problem to justify the $740 price tag for a pair of Tweels? That depends upon the types of properties a contractor mows, the likelihood and frequency of flat tires and how efficiently landscape crews deal with flat tires while on a site, contractors tell us.

In 2013, Michelin introduced the TWEEL SSL for skid-steer loaders. Michelin expanded that line by showing two new tread patterns for skid-steers at the 2014 EXPO – the all-terrain design for off-road applications and a separate tread pattern, which provides more longevity on surfaces such as concrete and asphalt.

Arctic, Inc., displayed an equally unique product at the 2014 EXPO. The company’s Frostbite Weed Control System relies upon compressed carbon dioxide for postemergent control of grassy and broadleaf weeds. Arctic describes the Frostbite as an “environmentally friend method of eliminating weeds.”

Arctic, Inc. exhibited its Frostbite at the recent GIE+EXPO, testing the industry’s interest in a weed-control system using compressed carbon dioxide. PHOTO: ARCTIC, INC.

Frostbite can be an effective specialty tool to control challenging weeds, including dallisgrass, Poa annua and purple violet, says Gina Stewart, Ph.D., Arctic co-founder. She adds that the product can also be used when the situation does not allow the use of conventional weed control products, such as when it rains or when it is excessively hot and conventional products are off label. Arctic is a relatively new company. Learn more at www.frostkills.com.

Spotlight on work vehicles

New utility vehicles (UTVs) and several new stand-on spreaders/sprayers for lawn applications reinforced the biggest theme of this year’s EXPO—equipment that allows contractors to do more work and do it more efficiently.

The UTV category is one of the fastest growing vehicle categories in the U.S. UTVs are sold and used for many reasons—hunting, ranching, recreationally, for the military and general-purpose hauling, to name a few of their uses.

Gravely says its new Atlas JSV (“job site vehicle”) is built for work, not for play. Gravely is the commercial arm of Wisconsin-based Ariens, which is offering the Atlas JSV through a strategic partnership with Minnesota-based Polaris.

“We’ve been working with Polaris for two years putting this product together,” says Bill Engler, director of sales, Gravely Commercial. Indeed, some of the components of the Atlas JSV are borrowed from the commercial-grade Polaris Brutus. For example, the Atlas JSV, like the Brutus, features on-demand, true all-wheel-drive and a De Dion rear suspension. While some of the manufacturing of the Atlas JSV is done at the Polaris plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa, the machine is fitted and finished at the Ariens’ facility in Brillion, Wisconsin.

The Atlas JSV comes in two models—the JSV-3000, which seats three people, and the JSV-6000 with room for six people on two bench seats. Gravely’s new JSV has a 1,900-pound payload and 2,000-pound towing capacity. Buyers can power their Atlas with a 570 cc, DOHC, EFI Polaris gasoline engine or a 1,028 cc Kohler diesel engine.

“We are going to own the jobsite market,” says Engler. “There is nothing like it (Atlas JSV) in the industry.”

Polaris, the Minnesota-based manufacturer of outdoor work and recreational vehicles, participated in its second consecutive GIE+EXPO, and displayed three lines of UTVs. Visitors took advantage of blue skies and comfortably cool temperatures to put the Polaris BRUTUS, RANGE and GEM models through their paces on its 16,000-square-foot outdoor demo track.

Turf editors got an opportunity to learn about and demo Gravely’s new Atlas “job site vehicle” in Frankfort, Kentucky, prior to the recent GIE+EXPO. PHOTO: GRAVELY

The BRUTUS, with its fully integrated front-end PTO, is capable of driving a wide assortment of commercial-grade attachments.

Hustler announced at the 2014 EXPO that it will also be offering a line of utility vehicles, with manufacturing at its Hesston, Kansas, plant set to begin in the fall of 2015. Adam Mullet, vice president of sales and marketing, says his company purchased the line from a European construction equipment manufacturer.

“We have developed patented technology to set Hustler well apart from other vehicles in the market. We simply needed a well-built vehicle to incorporate the technology,” he continues.

“One look at the design and build quality of these vehicles and we knew right away it was a perfect match. The suspension, drivability, speed and high quality will put this vehicle in its own category,” adds Mullett.

Of course, visitors also visited the Bobcat, Cub Cadet, John Deere, Kubota and Toro exhibits where they examined and tried out these manufacturers’ popular and rugged UTVs.

Why walk when you can ride

Will the walk-behind LESCO drop spreader become a relic as lawn application companies seek to do more and do it faster – everything from measuring lawns and providing quotes to fertilizing and providing weed control on clients’ properties? The basic drop spreader will remain a part of the industry into the future, but LCOs are rapidly adopting ride-on spreader/sprayers to boost production.

Several new and redesigned brands of motorized spreader/sprayers caught the attention of visitors to this year’s GIE+EXPO.

PermaGreen, the leader in the spreader/sprayer category with 12,000 machines in the field, promoted its new Triumph Spreader Sprayer.

Powered by a Honda 5.5-hp, horizontal shaft engine, which transfers power to its Peerless transaxle, the Triumph offers reliable, accurate spreading and spraying “in the right amount and in the right places” in two speed settings without the use of hydraulics and boom systems.

The PermaGreen Triumph can treat 3,000 square feet in one minute (an acre in 15 minutes), claims the company. The unit’s twin 6-gallon molded tanks hold enough herbicide to treat 50,000 square feet without a refill. The Triumph’s special low-volume, low drift front-mounted nozzles provide two regulated spray widths—11 feet for broadcast applications and 6 feet for trimming. The front-mounted spray capability is exclusive to the PermaGreen units.

The Triumph’s low center of gravity and its patented articulated steering joint connecting the front half of the machine provides operators with a maneuverable and nimble tool to treat properties.

L.T. Rich Products proudly displayed its redesigned ride-on sprayer/spreader line for 2015 at the EXPO. Responding to customers’ needs, L.T. Rich Products increased capacities from 50 to 60 gallons on its largest machine, the Z-max. The firm bumped up the capacities on both its intermediate and junior machines from 18 to 30 gallons.

The Lebanon, Indiana-based manufacturer says that all three of its ride-on sprayer/spreaders now have dual liquid capability as well as a lower center of gravity (COG) than earlier models. The lower COG, combined with the firm’s patented locking caster system provides greater hillside stability. The redesigned ride-on units continue to feature one of LT Rich’s strongest brand features – all stainless steel chassis.

Exmark’s new Stand-On Spreader Sprayer offers exclusive Lean-to-Steer controls. As the Turf magazine team learned firsthand, an operator can easily steer and control forward or reverse speed with one hand. This frees the other hand to operate the sprayer/spreader controls, or perform spot-spraying with the unit’s spray wand.

Exmark touted the Lean-to-Steer controls of its new Stand-On Spreader Sprayer. Operators can steer the unit and control forward/reverse speed with one hand. PHOTO: EXMARK

Another unique feature of the Exmark unit is its innovative controller for the pump and spinner motor, to give the operator control of the spinner speed and provide operational alerts for the pump or spinner motor. The controller allows adjustment of spinner speed to meet broadcast requirements from between four and 22 feet.

The Exmark Stand-On Spreader Sprayer also features separate, selectable narrow (5.5 feet) and wide (11 feet) spray nozzles. Two induction nozzles inside the 20-gallon tank provide spray mixture agitation that keeps even wettable powders in suspension, says Daryn Walters, marketing director, Exmark.

This is the first foray of Exmark, the Beatrice, Nebraska-based manufacturer of commercial mowers, into the application segment of professional turf care.

Toro, the parent company of Exmark, is offering its own version of the Stand-On Spreader/Sprayer.

A Record Breaker

Judging by the number of visitors and the enthusiasm they displayed at the 2014 GIE+EXPO, landscape and lawn care business owners were smiling again. This past year was their busiest yet since the 2008-2009 recession, and their optimism for 2015 lit up the cavernous exhibit hall at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Blue skies and pleasant temperatures (at least for late October) provided attendees with near-perfect conditions for trying out for themselves an incredible range of outdoor power equipment on the Center’s grassy, 9-acre outdoor demonstration area.

The numbers tell the story:

  • 1.3 million square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibit space (including the 9-acre demo park)
  • 675 exhibitors inside the massive Kentucky Expo Center (6 percent increase over 2013 and 12 percent increase over 2012)
  • 181 new exhibitors
  • New products showcase featuring 107 products from 68 companies
  • 19,000 attendees (exhibitors and visitors)
  • Registration up 11 percent from the 2013 GIE+EXPO
  • Increases in registrations and attendance over 2013 for all PLANET, PGMS and dealer events

At the Turfco Direct booth, Scott Kincaid busily demonstrated the company’s new T3000i Applicator. “Step on and grab the steering wheel for simple, intuitive driving,” said Kincaid, owner of the Minneapolis-based family business that sells commercial turf equipment direct to contractors. The hands-free speed control makes this particular unit easy to operate, even for beginning technicians.

Operating the T3000i is almost like driving a sports car, he added, and provides smooth and steady operation, especially on hills and rough terrain, he adds.

The unit’s size allows it to fit through 36-inch gates, yet its large hopper allows a lawn care operator to treat up to 124,000 feet in one fill. The T3000i offers 6- and 9-foot spraying widths and a 15-foot wand for spot treating.

Check out what fellow contractors are saying about these products and how they are incorporating them into their businesses by signing up or visiting LawnSite, the biggest and busiest online forum dedicated to the landscape/lawn service industry.

Ron Hall is editor-at-large of Turf. Comment on this article or contact him at rhall@mooserivermedia.com.