Chipotle has introduced a new avocado processing co-robot prototype, called Autocado, to automate part of its guacamole preparation. The Autocado, created in collaboration with product development company Vebu, cuts, cores and peels avocados before they’re mashed by employees.
The prototype is currently in test at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California. The companies estimate that the cobotic process could reduce guacamole prep time by up to 50%, or 25 minutes, as it takes approximately 50 minutes to make a batch of guacamole.
To facilitate the process, a team member loads Autocado with a full case of avocados and selects the size setting. The device can hold up to 25 pounds of avocados at one time. From there, avocados are vertically oriented and transferred to a processing device, where they are then sliced in half. The cores and skins are automatically removed and the waste is discarded. The fruit then heads to a stainless-steel bowl within the device, and a team member then takes over – adding the remainder of the guacamole ingredients and hand mashing the avocados.
According to Chipotle, Vebu worked closely with its certified training managers to analyze which tasks could be alleviated and which tasks were less favorable among crew members. In addition to saving time and labor, the companies estimate that Autocado could also increase fruit yield and ultimately reduce waste and save on food costs.
“We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees,” Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief customer and technology officer, said in a statement. “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.”
Chipotle is also investing in Vebu as part of Cultivate Next, a $50 million venture fund launched last year to make early-stage investments in “strategically aligned companies.” In addition to Vebu, Chipotle has also invested in Hyphen, a foodservice platform that automates operations, and Meati Foods, a company developing plant-based proteins from mushroom root.
Chipotle is also automating its tortilla chip-making process through a test with Miso Robotics’ Chippy. The test began last year in a Fountain Valley, California, restaurant.
At the time, Garner said, “We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our employee and guest experience. Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle’s crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant.”
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]