Soft Robotics Inc. yesterday launched SoftAI, which incorporates proprietary 3D vision, artificial intelligence software, and compliant end effectors. The Bedford, Mass.-based company said the system will address the most pressing challenge for the food industry – the inability to meaningfully automate operations.
“The food industry is critically dependent on labor to meet its production goals,” stated Mark Chiappetta, chief operating officer of Soft Robotics. “But challenges with workforce availability and productivity, tightening food-safety regulations, and global health crises have illuminated the need to break this dependency. SoftAI-powered robotic automation is the solution.”
Soft Robotics designs and builds automated picking systems using proprietary soft robotic grippers, 3D machine perception, and AI. The company claimed that its products enable machine builders to solve the hardest picking problems in food automation. It raised $10 million in Series B extension funding in June.
Soft Robotics adds SoftAI to existing robots
“SoftAI changes the game by augmenting traditional industrial robots with true hand-eye coordination unlocking their use in most labor dependent processes,” said Soft Robotics. “This technological innovation will finally drive broad-scale adoption of automation, resulting in a more resilient food supply chain that produces safer products at higher volumes with reduced waste and lower operational costs.”
“Robots have been widely adopted across an array of industries, resulting in safer working environments, consistently higher-quality products, and improved economics for operators,” said Jeff Beck, CEO of Soft Robotics. “However, robotics adoption in food production operations has been very limited due to technological and sanitation challenges.”
“SoftAI was specifically developed by a team of highly accomplished robotics engineers to solve those challenges,” he said. “It's ready now to make a real positive difference in the quest to automate food production. We look forward to engaging with food producers and our systems integration partners in this new frontier for robotics.”
The global market for food automation will register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2021 and 2026, predicted Mordor Intelligence. One reason for expansion is improving technology to meet demands for safety and speed, said the research firm.
Research and Markets also forecast 6% CAGR for the same time period, with higher growth expected in the Asia-Pacific region.
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