June 29, 2021
Soft Robotics, which develops AI-powered automated picking solutions through modular soft robotic gripping technology, has announced raising $10 million in a Series B extension funding round. The new funding will help expand its commercial operations to meet COVID-19 pandemic-fueled demand, as well as go to the launch of its SoftAI-powered robotic solutions.
SoftAI layers 3D vision and AI technologies on top of Soft Robotics soft grasping technologies that give industrial robots the hand-eye coordination of humans. The combination of the robotic “hands, eyes, and brains” enables the automation of bulk picking processes (including bin picking) in the food supply chain.
The funding round was co-led by Material Impact, Scale Venture Partners, and Calibrate Ventures. This also brings Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, into the syndicate. ABB Technology Ventures and Tekfen Ventures also participated to complete the round.
“Today’s industrial robots are unable to deal with product variability or unstructured environments typically found across the labor chain in areas such as agriculture, food processing, and logistics,” said Mark Chiappetta, COO at Soft Robotics. “With our revolutionary soft grasping, 3D perception, and AI technologies, Soft Robotics unlocks robotic automation by augmenting widely available industrial robots with true hand-eye coordination allowing them to perform tasks that traditionally could only be performed by human workers.”
Soft Robotics said companies like Tyson Foods are adopting robotic automation to help improve safety and increase production in their facilities to meet the demand for high quality, safe and nutritious protein products. Tyson Foods is a leading producer of chicken, beef, and pork, and has invested about $500 million in new technology and automation in the last three years. The company is an existing user of Soft Robotics’ technology.
“At Tyson Ventures, we are continually exploring new areas in automation that can enhance safety and increase the productivity of our team members,” said Rahul Ray, senior director at Tyson Ventures. “Soft Robotics’ best-in-class robotic technology, computer vision and AI platform have the potential to transform the food industry and will play a key role in any company’s automation journey.”
The company said the pandemic ratched up the pressure to automate to alleviate workforce challenges and increase operational and food safety environments. Soft Robotics experienced a rapid increase in demand for its products, and delivered the two largest sales quarters in the company’s seven-year history, the company added.
“This is an exciting time at Soft Robotics,” said Jeff Beck, CEO of Soft Robotics. “The vulnerabilities of the food supply chain were illuminated by the pandemic, making it clear that automation has graduated from a nice-to-have to a must-have across all large scale food production operations. Demand for both our hardware and SoftAI software solutions are increasing at an unprecedented pace. This new capital will support Soft Robotics’ exponential growth thereby ensuring automation plays a major role in safeguarding the food supply against future disruptions.”
For more information on the company and its offerings, visit the Soft Robotics website.