US Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle has introduced Autocado, a collaborative robot (cobot) prototype that cuts, cores and peels avocados, to automate the production of guacamole.
The solution has been implemented amid growing costs and labour shortages throughout the US restaurant industry.
After the cobot processes the avocados, they are hand mashed to create the restaurant’s guacamole. The solution is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California.
According to the company, Autocado can hold up to 25lbs (11.3kg) of avocados at any given time, with the prototype being developed alongside Chipotle staff, based on what they identified as time-consuming or undesirable tasks.
Each batch is processed in approximately 50 minutes. Once prepared, a member of staff removes the bowl of peeled and chopped avocado fruit and moves it to the counter where they add additional ingredients and hand mash it to make the guacamole.
The prototype’s developer, robotics company Vebu Labs, hopes to improve the efficiency and processing speed of the solution to achieve a 50% reduction in preparation times.
Across US, Canada and Europe this year, Chipotle is expected to use approximately 4.5 million cases of avocados, equivalent to more than 100 million pounds of fruit. In support of the company’s sustainability ambitions and waste reduction efforts, Autocado is also intended to increase avocado fruit yield through precision processing.
“We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees,” said Curt Garner, chief customer and technology officer at Chipotle.
“The intensive labor of cutting, coring, and scooping avocados could be relieved with Autocado, but we still maintain the essential culinary experience of hand mashing and hand preparing the guacamole to our exacting standards.”
This is not the first time Chipotle has introduced robotics into its food preparation, previously bringing in autonomous kitchen platform CHIPPY, which prepares tortilla chips, as well as HYPHEN, another automated kitchen solution.
Autocado’s developer is currently exploring how artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to connect to all its robotic solutions. It hopes that future versions of Autocado will be able to use machine learning and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocados and quantify waste reduction.