Matt Aposhian, COO of FireFly Automatix, is conducting a tour of the company’s warehouse in the industrialized part of the valley. In addition to showing off the impressive lineup of Firefly’s automated sod harvesters and driverless lawnmowers, he’s also pointing out the tens of thousands of parts that are fabricated, molded, welded, shaped, cut, bolted and painted right here on the premises to put the machines together.

When FireFly says its products are made in Utah, it means made in Utah.

“Steel and electronics come in one door,” says Matt, “fully functioning machines go out the other side.”

All of it a testament to the unlimited ingenuity of the human mind.

That and the age-old desire to get out of work.

“Our engineers joke around,” Matt says. “They say they’re inherently lazy so they think of ways to do things easier.”

Then he adds, “It would’ve been nice to have all this around when I was a kid.”

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When the Aposhian kids — Matt’s three brothers and two sisters — were growing up, their father, Lawrence, ran a sod farm. Besides putting a roof over their heads and food on the table, the farm made sure the siblings were no strangers to manual labor. When the cut sod rolled off the conveyor belt, they were the ones who got to get down on their hands and knees to lift it and stack it.

“Those weren’t what I’d call the fun days,” says Matt, “but our parents were honorable people who taught us to work hard. They instilled that work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit in us from a very young age. I think that has a lot to do with what’s happened.”

What’s happened is the invention and production of sod harvesters and lawnmowers that have taken the robotic age by storm.

The company’s automated harvesters — capable of turning what used to be a four-man operation into one driver sitting in a heated or air-conditioned cab listening to Spotify — can be found all over the U.S. and around the world, including as far away as China and South Africa.

Tanner Dixon, mechanical engineer, works on the cutting unit of a fully autonomous lawn mower at FireFly Automatix in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

And its eagerly anticipated, just-released fully electric robotic lawnmowers — requiring no driver — have already been ordered by sod farms and golf courses.

It all goes back to the day about 16 years ago when Steve Aposhian, Matt’s older brother, decided he could make a better robotic arm than the one that kept breaking on the early self-stacking harvester Lawrence had bought for his sod farm.

Steve is the family engineer. When Steve was a teenager, Matt remembers him rigging up a motor from an electric race car to the blinds in his bedroom so he didn’t have to get out of bed to open and close the blinds.

Steve recruited a friend and fellow engineer, Will Decker, to redesign the robotic arm that kept breaking. When their version proved unbreakable, they decided to see if other sod farms might like to purchase something that was better than the original equipment.

When the response was “yes,” Steve and Will, along with another engineer friend, Eric Aston, and Matt Aposhian and his younger brother Dan formed a company they called FireFly. They set up their headquarters on Lawrence’s farm.

Then they set their sights even higher.

Lawrence Aposhian remembers the initial exchange he had with his son Steve.

“He said, ‘I want to build an entire harvester from the ground up.’ I said, ‘Well, go ahead.’ So he got his engineer buddies, they sat in my office, got on my computer, and started designing this sod harvester. At night they went into my shop, got the steel and started fabricating.”

Steve, Will and Eric recruited Sam Drake, the professor who taught them engineering at the University of Utah, to help.

In less than a year — quick work even by Elon Musk standards — they had created what Lawrence calls “this remarkable thing.”

Horizon Turf Farms, a huge sod operation in Texas, bought the first FireFly harvester; then bought 17 more.

FireFly moved out of Lawrence’s farm into a spacious warehouse and in the 12 years since, as the company has grown to 190 employees (including 30 engineers), more than 600 fully completed FireFly ProSlab harvesters have rolled out the door. Currently, the company is selling about 110 harvesters a year.

The success of the harvesters led to the six years of thinking, tinkering and fabricating that produced the just-released AMP — Autonomous Mowing Platform.

That’s a fancy way of saying a lawnmower that mows by itself.

“There’s nothing like it in the world,” says Matt. “With it being fully electric and fully autonomous, it does some things nobody else can do right now.”

Not only is a driverless 100-inch wide mower attractive to sod farms — where grass is cut as often as three times a week — but also to other places with large expanses of grass such as golf courses — a market Matt sees as the AMP’s future. There are 38,000 golf courses in the world, he points out. With a lawnmower that needs no driver, no gas and makes no noise, golf courses can mow their lawns early and late, not pollute the air and not wake anyone up. (You can see a video of the AMP in action at

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As Matt concludes our warehouse tour, making sure photographer Laura Seitz hasn’t taken any photos that might give away intellectual property (FireFly is home to more than six dozen current and pending patents), he surveys an assembly line Henry Ford would be proud of and an engineering laboratory right out of Thomas Edison’s playbook.

Hearkening back to his boyhood, he sums up in a sentence what the Aposhians and their engineer friends have wrought.

“We took what were the worst jobs on the sod farm,” he says, “now they’re the best.”

The autonomy controller and battery box of a fully autonomous lawn mower are pictured at FireFly Automatix in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News