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Windsor start-up shines on international stage

It’s a hot summer day and your grass needs a trim. Sweat drips down your face as you lug your lawnmower out of the shed and yank on the starter rope until the sharp blades roar to life. 

There’s got to be a better way, you think, as exhaust fumes fills the air and the motor drowns out the chirping birds and children playing in their yards.

Nigel Christian and Zain Shaikh found one. 

Inspired by their humid, childhood summers in Southern Ontario, the two, now studying engineering at the University of Windsor, have created a lawnmower that is virtually silent, lightweight, emissions-free and safer than any product on the market. They call it Secara — derived from a Latin word for cut. 

“Lawnmower accidents are the leading cause of major amputations for children under 10,” Christian says. “Traditionally, lawnmowers use a heavy rotating blade, which can also cause debris such as rocks and sticks to become a dangerous flying projectile. Our patent-pending, reciprocating blade technology can prevent this from happening.”

Secara is made with 75 per cent less components than other mowers and its cutting technology is maintenance free — this means no sharpening. Shaikh says the high-grade stainless steel used contains specific properties for low friction and granular wear, ensuring a sharp edge throughout the lifetime of the blade. The battery-powered, cordless mower is also 80 per cent quieter than conventional mowers.

“Weight-saving materials like high-grade aluminum and stainless steel in addition to sustainable manufacturing methods allow us to produce durable, lightweight and cost-effective components,” Shaikh says. “As a result, Secara’s lightweight makes lawnmowing accessible to everyone regardless of physical ability.” 

​The fourth-year engineering students were selected out of thousands to represent Canada in the Jacobs Startup Competition, a global competition held in Bremen, Germany in late March. There, they joined 10 teams from around the world to present a sales pitch to established accelerators and investors.

The two landed a free partnership with a marketing firm located in London, England and met with industry leaders from top European companies, who provided resources to further expand their start-up business, Aviot Industries

Robin Wolters, the organizer of the Jacobs Startup Competition, said the competition provides a platform for “the best entrepreneurs from all around the world to stand out with their business idea.”

“Secara inspired the audience with its innovative idea of a virtually silent and lightweight lawnmower. Secara stood out among other startups by introducing a physical product that every house owner needs. I can see this startup idea turning into a success story very fast, very soon.” 

The next step for Aviot Industries is to launch Secara on its upcoming crowdfunding campaign and export the product from Canada to customers worldwide. The lawnmower will soon be available for pre-order online and ultimately, in big box stores in the near future.

“Our market research discovered that in addition to safety concerns, noise and emissions, one of the major obstacles current lawnmower users face is mowing hard-to-reach places such as underneath trees, lawn furniture and decks,” says Christian. 

To solve this, the duo designed a handlebar that can be adjusted by 90 degrees, allowing users to easily maneuver and cut grass under tight spots.

“We are very proud of Nigel and Zain,” says Dr. Jill Urbanic, a UWindsor engineering professor who helped advise the students. “They are combining what they have learned in design and manufacturing with business smarts. However, innovation, ambition, and going the extra distance is not taught — it comes from inside. Zain and Nigel are resetting the dial on lawnmowers and they haven't even graduated yet.”

The duo says the support of the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre and University of Windsor has been critical to their success.

Learn more about Secara and its upcoming launch.

Photo: (L-R) Nigel Christian and Zain Shaikh receive a special recognition award at the Jacobs Startup Competition in Bremen, Germany.