Electric Sheep Robotics, which is combining artificial intelligence and robotics for outdoor maintenance, this week announced that it has acquired Phenix Landscape LLC and Complete Landscape Care Inc. The San Francisco-based company said it is acquiring traditional outdoor service providers and transforming operations with its proprietary technology.
“We are aggressively exploring landscaping businesses in the top 50 metro areas with a high rate of growth and plenty of turf to maximize the impact of automating mowing,” said Nag Murty, co-founder and CEO of Electric Sheep, in a release.
“This is different from the traditional approach to robotics innovation, which is focused on selling robots to customers, then building them,” he told Robotics 24/7. “The $200 billion landscaping industry is largely fragmented. We're looking at what hardware we can put out cheaply today to get the biggest bang for our buck.”
Through consolidation and AI-fueled vertical integration, Electric Sheep said it plans to become a major player in the $1 trillion global market for outdoor infrastructure services. Tiger Global and Foundation Capital have provided funding to the company.
Mowing with machine learning
Electric Sheep said its machine learning models are designed to automate various physical tasks such as mowing and knowledge work like inventory management, customer success, and marketing. The robots can explore, map, navigate, and manipulate the physical world around them, including homeowners associations (HOAs), parks, university campuses, and more, it said.
“We started with large machines and then thought about scale for making them inherently safe,” he explained. “If the robot has to deliver ROI [return on investment], we just need a two or three DoF [degree-of-freedom] actuator product to be profitable.”
Electric Sheep added that its robotic mowers don’t require an engineer on site – they can just be shipped to the site and begin tasks alongside the crew. This is only possible through a full-stack data channel and the large volume of data that the robots are continually trained on, the company claimed.
While 80% to 90% of Electric Sheep's current market ranges from complex residential yards and highway medians to corporate and urban parks, Murty noted that Electric Sheep is working on robot arms for trimming hedges or moving trash.
“These are data-rich problems that will lead to embodied AI in the long term,” he said. “We've invested in a world model to train AI so that mowers know the boundaries of grass through perception only. With a camera and our full stack, the robot could explore a yard, build a map, and mow in one session.”
“We are building large world models—LWMs—to power robots with an AI brain so they can work in all types of outdoor environments,” added Murty. “What Open AI did with language, Electric Sheep wants to do for outdoor robotics—under the air cover of a profitable business model.”
“This is different from large language models,” he said. “We're building a world model from first-order physics principles rather than taking noisy data. Our deep neural networks use insect-like vision to create structured 3D geometry. We're looking for AI intelligent animals versus Web-based robotics.”
Electric Sheep grows through acquisition
The acquisitions of Phenix Landscape and Complete Landscape will help Electric Sheep to grow eightfold, predicted the company. It plans to offer full services including data collection rather than just robotics as a service (RaaS), asserted Murthy.
“This gets to the heart of why we chose this business model,” he told Robotics 24/7. “There's an inability to unlock value from progressive automation, which is held to extremely high SLAs [service-level agreements]. The other challenge is changing behavior and workflows. With the labor shortage, there's a huge opportunity to scale by moving toward humans overseeing robots.”
“The businesses we are focused on right now have great facilities, a strong team, well-maintained equipment, and a solid customer base where we can automate operations and expand,” noted Jarrett Herold, co-founder and chief operating officer of Electric Sheep.
“Both Phenix and Complete met all of that criteria, and we are excited to integrate and inject our AI-based robots into these businesses under Electric Sheep to really accelerate efficiencies on customer sites,” he added.
“As AI makes inroads in vertical industries, landscaping is just at the start of incorporating this technology to automate very manual processes,” said Tom Murray, president of Complete Landscape. “As part of Electric Sheep our customers are going to directly benefit from its proprietary AI robots that streamline time-consuming tasks like mowing.”
Electric Sheep is considering moving into snowblowing, and it is currently active in Tennessee and Southern California.
“We are excited to join the Electric Sheep team, and our customers are thrilled to be working with such a forward-thinking company utilizing AI technology to improve operations and efficiency,” said Derek Schendel, owner of Phenix Landscape.
Electric Sheep Robotics in 2021 presented the Dexter Mega mower.
About the Author
Eugene DemaitreEugene Demaitre was editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
Follow Robotics 24/7 on Facebook Follow Robotics 24/7 on Linkedin
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job.
Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Robotics 24/7.
Subscribe to our robotics user email newsletter and we'll keep you informed and up-to-date.
Electric Sheep said its purchase of two landscaping firms is part of its strategy.