BLOOMINGTON, MN—The Toro Company celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Center for Advanced Turf Technology (CATT) – a cross-functional team of engineers and agronomists dedicated to developing cutting-edge technologies in turf care.
“This is a great milestone for us, but it’s just the beginning,” said Michael Hoffman, chairman and CEO of The Toro Company. “There’s always an opportunity to innovate, develop and apply technologies that benefit both customers and the environment. It’s listening to customers today to anticipate their needs in the future.”
The CATT team was established in 1998 to develop innovative solutions to customer problems, and environmentally-friendly technologies for customers in the professional turf markets including golf, sports fields, grounds and landscape maintenance. The group’s mission was to work across organizational and product group boundaries to discover new innovations that help customers increase productivity, conserve water and energy, and control costs.
“We had direction to work with customers, academic leaders and industry experts to develop solutions that could emerge as breakthrough products. We’ve had the freedom to be innovative, while focusing on practical solutions – not theory,” said Dana Lonn, PE, director of CATT.
Lonn pointed out that while ongoing research and development activity occurs throughout the organization, the special turf technology group ensures Toro is looking strategically across the entire marketplace to identify long-term trends and technologies.
CATT has been influential in the following areas:
Water management. This has been a key initiative for CATT during its 10-year history with the goal of helping customers better manage water resources and energy. Emerging technologies include –
Soil moisture sensing using a variety of different sensing technologies to know precisely how much moisture is in the soil to apply water where and when it’s needed – no more, no less.
In order to use water to its maximum efficiency it is critical that turf managers understand site conditions including soil types, topography and irrigation effectiveness. Technologies have been developed to quickly and efficiently analyze site conditions to help individuals make better watering decisions.
Reflectance sensing to measure the health of plant photosynthesis, which is an indicator of turf vigor or varying degrees of stress. Reflectance sensing shows promise to detect turf stress from over and under watering, and disease and insect pressure prior to the effect being visible to the human eye.
Alternative fuels. Toro is several years deep into the testing of various alternative fuel sources including hybrid, advanced-battery technology, and hydrogen fuel cells. A partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has resulted in the deployment of hydrogen fuel cells to power Toro® Workman® utility vehicles at Niagara Falls State Park. CATT is constantly exploring new technologies to improve the environmental profile of Toro equipment.
Labor Productivity. CATT is constantly working to identify new ways to help our customers use labor more efficiently. For example, the innovative ProCore® 648 walking aerator and Reelmaster® Sidewinder® mower provides savings of time and labor.
Van Cline, Ph.D, manager of agronomic research, said, “Our experience in agronomy helps us innovate ways to better conserve water and energy. We all face the challenges surrounding water and the environment. With our knowledge and strong partnerships we can help improve the way we manage our resources and care for the outdoors.”
Other innovative technologies developed by The Toro Company include:
Bio-diesel. After extensive testing, the company announced that all 2008 Toro diesel-powered golf course, sports fields and grounds, and landscape contractor equipment have been approved to use bio-diesel fuel blends up to B20. Upgrade kits also are available.
Subsurface drip irrigation that saves water and energy, including the only pressure-compensating tape in the world. This technology is being used to irrigate crops and other tough-to-water areas that include slopes, landscapes, and around golf course sand bunkers.
EvapoTranspiration (ET) controllers that utilize satellite data from the patented-WeatherTRAK® technology to automatically adjust the amount of water applied to a landscape based on weather conditions. These “smart” controllers receive signals to replace only moisture lost to heat, humidity and wind.
Sensing technology to detect turf stress as a result of disease, insect and irrigation problems.