Robotics is the way of the future in the food industry. It is a safer way to pick, package, and palletize food for wholesaling than using human hands. Robotics also offers food producers unique ways to serve their customers.
There is no better example of the latter than Zume Pizza out of Silicon Valley. Zume uses robots to create their products with exact calculations and then uses human hands to bake the pizzas in their delivery trucks.
These innovative means of service is exactly what makes Zume a great opportunity for investors. SoftBank, an investment company from Japan, recently jumped on the bandwagon and invested $375 million into Zume. This is big news for a couple of reasons. For one, SoftBank’s investment is more than the total amount of money invested in food robotics since 2013 ($311 million). Second, it shows that there is real traction behind the food robotics movement.
Even so, the bulk of investment in the robotics field in 2018 went to “companies developing software and hardware technologies and products, along with services solutions in some instances, in support of self-driving vehicles,” according to The Robot Report.
So why are food robotics companies such as Zume suddenly finding large-scale investments? Simply stated, robots perform repeatable tasks with precision such as making pizza or assembling hamburgers. This leaves little doubt that many restaurants will look to automate within the next few decades.
First off, if you spend any time analyzing recent trends in the food tech investment landscape, you’ll notice a trend: the vast majority of investing is going to delivery services. SoftBank rolled out $558 million in Series D investing for DoorDash in 2017. The bank also made a deal to become the largest single stock holder with Uber and helped the company further develop Uber Eats.
However, there has been a noticeable uptick in non-delivery investments. Otto Robots, a start-up from Seattle, recently received $1.5 million from Paul Allen’s venture capital company Vulcan Capital to help develop its food assembly robot. Casarobots, a company developing robots for salad shops, also received a healthy investment.
There is still quite a bit of skepticism about food robotics as well. Mainly in the consumer side. Most robotics companies are developing technology for high-volume and repeatable tasks. If you don’t plan on serving 30 of your friends with the same food and cocktails, then robots may not be able to provide any service to you.
In restaurants, food robotics offers a world of possibilities. Will robots ever rival the investments made in delivery services? Probably not any time soon. However, the possibilities are endless, which is what makes food robotics an exciting, and risky, field to invest in.