Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced a new investment in Greenfield Robotics, which develops agricultural solutions using artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and sensor technologies.
The restaurant chain has also provided funding for Nitricity, which develops fertiliser products that are intended to have a reduced impact on farmers and the environment.
The investments are being funded through Chipotle’s US$50m (£39.3m) venture fund Cultivate Next.
Greenfield Robotics’ (Greenfield) fleets of autonomous robots are designed to be lightweight and cut weeds between rows of broadacre crops, day or night, to reduce farmers’ dependence on herbicides.
Cultivate Next makes early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further Chipotle’s strategic goals as a business.
Conventional farming involves the use of chemicals and soil tillage to eliminate weeds, which can lead to escalating costs, soil erosion and degradation, as well as the development of resistant weeds.
These methods can likewise create health risks for both wildlife and humans.
Greenfield aims to build a fleet of autonomous, lightweight robots to support the transition away from over-reliance on chemicals and herbicides in farming, while also developing additional capabilities for forthcoming iterations of its robots, including micro-spraying, cover crop planting and soil testing.
“The work of Greenfield Robotics to build out a tech forward alternative to herbicides plays an important role in ensuring a more sustainable future for the agricultural industry,” said Curt Garner, chief customer and technology officer, Chipotle.
“We will help Greenfield Robotics scale their robotic offerings and explore how their robots can be deployed on farms within our supply chain.”
Nitricity has started field trials for their fertiliser product with Salinas Valley farmers, including suppliers of the Mexican restaurant in the region.
What’s more, funding from Cultivate Next will be used to scale up Nitricity’s production of nitrogen, Chipotle has announced.