Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced Autocado, an avocado processing cobotic prototype that cuts, cores and peels avocados before they are hand mashed to create the restaurant’s guacamole. The prototype, developed in collaboration with Vebu, is being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, Calif.
How It Works
- A team member loads Autocado with a case of ripe avocados and selects the size setting. Autocado can hold up to 25 pounds of avocados.
- One at a time, avocados are vertically oriented, then transferred to the processing device.
- The avocados are sliced in half. Their cores and skin are automatically removed and the waste is discarded.
- The fruit is collected in a stainless-steel bowl in the bottom of the device.
- A team member removes the bowl of avocado fruit and moves it to the counter where they add additional ingredients and hand mash the avocados to make Chipotle’s guacamole.
Vebu is working with certified training managers from Chipotle’s restaurants to analyze the company’s preparation process and identify tasks that are time consuming and less favorable among crew members. Chipotle currently has individuals dedicated to cutting, coring, and scooping avocados. On average, it takes approximately 50 minutes to make a batch of guacamole.
The Vebu team is aiming to improve the device’s processing speeds, which could reportedly reduce guacamole prep time by 50%. In restaurants across the U.S., Canada, and Europe this year, the company is expected to use approximately 4.5 million cases of avocados, equivalent to more than 100 million pounds of fruit. In support of Chipotle’s sustainability initiatives and waste reduction efforts, Autocado also aims to increase avocado fruit yield through precision processing, which could lead to millions of dollars in annual food cost savings if the cobot is successfully developed and deployed widely. “Our purpose as a robotic company is to leverage automation technology to give workers more flexibility in their day-to-day work,” said Buck Jordan, CEO of Vebu.
Vebu is developing an artificial intelligence and machine learning stack to be connected to its robotic solutions, where applicable. The goal is for future iterations of Autocado to use machine learning and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocados and quantify waste reduction as well as the efficiency of the cutting, coring, and peeling processes.
Chipotle is investing in Vebu as part of Cultivate Next, the company’s $50 million venture fund that intends to make early-stage investments into aligned companies that help accelerate its growth plans.
In addition to Autocado, Chipotle is testing Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips, in a Fountain Valley, Calif. restaurant.