Food robotics company Soft Robotics has raised a $10 million Series B extension, as it looks to further expand its commercial operations.
Based in Massachusetts, US, Soft Robotics is a technology company that designs and builds automated picking solutions using proprietary soft robotic grippers, 3D machine perception and artificial intelligence (AI).
The company’s robotic solutions are used by machine builders to tackle piece picking problems in areas such as agriculture, food processing and logistics.
Soft Robotics claims to have experienced a spike in demand for its products during the Covid-19 pandemic, which it says has increased pressure for automation.
The round was co-led by Material Impact, Scale Venture Partners and Calibrate Ventures, with participation from Tyson Foods’ venture capital arm, as well as ABB Technology Ventures and Tekfen Ventures.
In addition to helping Soft Robotics to expand its commercial operations, the new funds will also support the launch of the company’s SoftAI-powered robotic solutions.
SoftAI layers 3D vision and artificial intelligence technologies on top of Soft Robotics’ patented soft grasping “to give industrial robots the hand-eye coordination of human beings”. This is said to enable the automation of bulk picking processes in the food supply chain.
“Today’s industrial robots are unable to deal with product variability or unstructured environments typically found across the labour-challenged food supply chain in areas such as agriculture, food processing and logistics,” said Mark Chiappetta, COO at Soft Robotics.
“With our revolutionary soft grasping, 3D perception and AI technologies, Soft Robotics unlocks robotic automation by augmenting widely available industrial robots with true hand-eye coordination allowing them to perform tasks that traditionally could only be performed by human workers.”
Soft Robotics CEO, Jeff Beck, added: “The vulnerabilities of the food supply chain were illuminated by the pandemic making it clear that automation has graduated from a nice-to-have to a must-have across all large-scale food production operations.
“Soft Robotics patented technologies are ready and being used today to enable automation in the processing and packaging of proteins, produce and bakery products.”
Tyson Foods has reportedly invested around $500 million in new technology and automation in the last three years and is an existing user of Soft Robotics.
Rahul Ray, senior director of Tyson Ventures, said: “Soft Robotics’ best-in-class robotic technology, computer vision and AI platform have the potential to transform the food industry and will play a key role in any company’s automation journey.”
Kevin Dunlap, managing partner at Calibrate Ventures, added: “…[Soft Robotics’] SoftAI solution, combining patented soft robotic grippers, ultra-fast 3D vision and sophisticated AI that evaluates a scene to autonomously choose the optimal grasping solution, is the future of robotics and an absolute game-changer for the food and logistics industries.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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