Robotics have begun to make their way into many aspects of our everyday life, from manufacturing to entertainment and much more. One area you may not expect to see robotics in however, is the food industry but they are certainly making waves in recent years and will continue to grow in the future. Robotics is beginning to affect every link in the food supply chain, an industry that’s attempting to feed over seven billion people and doing so with the greatest efficiency is crucial as the earth’s population continues to exponentially increase.
In a world with 7.5 billion people and growing daily, it’s no surprise that the food service sector of robotics is receiving increased funding. In order to streamline our food production and lower costs, many companies are investing in robotics to keep their profit margins up. With how quickly the field of robotics is advancing and consequentially per unit costs are decreasing, it makes sense to put more funds into these developments. Efficiency is key in every step of the food supply chain, from agricultural benefits to the production side of things and the more funding we can secure for this research, the better off we will be.
One such way to increase efficiency is by automating our food production, which is the basis for some interesting new robotics. Zume Pizza, a robotics startup — sometimes referred to as the Uber of pizza thanks to its cashless operations — is a fresh new take on pizza delivery. Zume employs over 100 humans and several robotic arms to work an assembly line beginning with flattening dough into circles and ends with sliding the pies into and out of the oven. The employees assist in the assembly just as any worker in the auto industry and are also responsible for delivering the finished product. Zume recently secured $48 million dollars in funding to expand their operation from its current Silicon Valley territory.
Chowbotics, a company that designs robots for food service, claim to remove the unsanitary elements of a salad bar with its new Sally model – the world’s first salad robot. Sally contains over 20 ingredient containers, creating over 1,000 customizable salads. All of this comes with the guarantee of food safety thanks to the elimination of human interaction with the food. Sally even features refrigerated containers, to avoid common problems like botulism and is easy to clean and keep things fresh. This allows restaurants to breathe a sigh of relief, not having to worry about food contamination in one of the most commonly bacteria filled aspects of any restaurant. Chowbotics has also landed increased funding recently, over $5 million in investments to allow them to improve Sally and work on other safer options for food service.
While robotics in food production seem to be headed in an upward direction as we progress, there are other sectors that are ripe for robotic integration. The field of customer service in particular tends to see the highest number of complaints and the greatest amount of human error. When we begin to integrate robots successfully into customer service, customer complaints will decrease and satisfied customers and employee happiness will increase. Japan has already begun to integrate robots into their customer service workforce and we can expect to see an increase in other countries as well as the technology develops and consumers become more accepting of it.
As the robotics industry continues to grow, and should reach $135 billion in 2019 the options for integration are constrained only by our imaginations. The food service industry is just beginning to realize the potential of robotics and many other industries will follow suit. With the improved technology, the possibilities of robot integration and increased efficiency and the new opportunities they will bring are endless in the coming years.