Chipotle’s love of robots continues with autonomous farming

The food industry is going all-in on robots.

When you think of Chipotle, you probably think of burritos, guacamole, and tortilla chips.

Three yellow robots, each with two headlights and an antenna, driving through rows of green crops.

But what should really spring to mind are robots.

The brand is going all-in on automation. First, it introduced Chippy, a robot tasked with cranking out tortilla chips; then came Autocado, a guacamole-making robot; and finally, a robot built to assemble your salads and bowls.

Now, Chipotle is bringing robotics to the source of its ingredients: the farm.

The company’s $50m Cultivate Next venture fund recently invested in Greenfield Robotics, an agtech startup that makes AI-based, autonomous robots to support regenerative farming.

How are they gonna pull that off?

Per Chipotle, the robots:

  • Can continuously cut weeds between rows of crops 24/7.
  • Reduce reliance on harmful chemicals traditionally used to kill weeds.
  • Minimize risk for farmers and make farming more sustainable.

With Chipotle’s investment, Greenfield Robotics will add more capabilities to its robots, including soil testing, crop planting, and microspraying.

Future of farming

Beyond the bots, Chipotle’s fund is also investing in Nitricity, a fertilizer startup that uses artificial lightning to create cleaner, more energy-efficient fertilizer.

Nitricity’s tech mimics a natural process in which lightning strikes break down nitrogen in the air before rainwater brings it into the soil.

The startup is currently testing its process with lettuce farmers in California’s Salinas Valley.

Year of the bot

Chipotle isn’t the only restaurant hopping on the automation bandwagon — chains are increasingly experimenting with AI in the kitchen:

  • Wendy’s partnered with Google Cloud to launch AI-powered voice automation at the drive-thru.
  • Also partnering with Google, IHOP added AI-generated food recommendations for customers ordering online.
  • Sweetgreen acquired Spyce, a robotics food-prep company, to automate its salad assembly process.

Plus, some restaurants are going fully futuristic with $25k robot waiters.

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