Soft Robotics Inc. today announced that it raised $26 million in an initial Series C closing. Tyson Ventures led the round, with participation from new investors Marel and Johnsonville. The Bedford, Mass.-based company said it plans to use the funds to expand commercial deployment of its mGripAI robotic picking systems.
“We're delighted that some of the world's leaders in the food production and automation markets have decided to join existing investors in supporting SRI's continuing growth journey,” said Jeff Beck, CEO of Soft Robotics Inc. (SRI).
“SRI's technologies are increasingly crucial to enabling and scaling efficient and safe production of several food categories,” he said. “This round of growth capital strengthens SRI's ability to rapidly develop, deploy and support those technologies.”
Soft Robotics designs and builds automated, high-speed picking robots using proprietary soft robotic grippers, 3D machine vision, and artificial intelligence. The company said its products enable systems integrators and machinery OEMs to automate some of the most challenging bulk processes found in food production.
mGripAI designed to help handle food
A global increase in demand for quality and sustainably produced food coinciding with worsening labor scarcity is causing food producers to struggle with supply. This has further intensified the pressure to automate, said Soft Robotics.
As a result, the company said it has experienced a rapid surge in demand, delivering the four largest sales quarters in its eight-year history.
mGripAI combines 3D vision and AI with patented, IP69K-rated, soft grasping to give industrial robots the hand-eye coordination of humans, claimed Soft Robotics. It added that this “unprecedented combination of robotic 'hands,' 'eyes,' and 'brains" enables, for the first time, the use of high-speed industrial arms to automate bulk picking processes throughout protein, produce, dairy, baked goods, and prepared foods operations.”
“For decades, food producers have been unable to adopt industrial robot arms to automate their most labor-intensive, bulk production processes,” stated Mark Chiappetta, chief operating officer of Soft Robotics. “Finally, there is a solution! mGripAI, with its revolutionary perception and AI, unlocks the use of industrial robots in nearly all stages of food production increasing throughput, improving food quality, reducing facility footprint, and breaking the critical dependency on labor.”
Soft Robotics picks up funding from food producers
Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, led Soft Robotics' initial Series C round. It also brought new investors Marel and Johnsonville into SRI's investor syndicate. Soft Robotics reported that it closed the first $26 million of an undisclosed-size round with the participation of these new investors as well as existing ones.
Other backers of Soft Robotics that include ABB, Calibrate Ventures, FANUC, JMaterial Impact, Scale Venture Partners, and Tekfen.
Companies such as Tyson Foods and Johnsonville are betting on automation to help improve safety and meet the demand for high-quality, safe, and nutritious protein products. Both companies are existing users of Soft Robotics systems.
“At Tyson, 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 of Tyson Ventures. “Soft Robotics' revolutionary 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.”
“We're excited to be extending our partnership with Soft Robotics and adding 'investor' to our existing customer relationship,” said Kevin Ladwig, managing director of Johnsonville Ventures.
“We believe Soft Robotics offers best-in-class pick-and-place systems which are applicable to numerous primary and secondary processing operations,” he added. “Applications that reduce repetitive motion and improve employee safety, in addition to enhancing productivity, are welcomed improvements for any operation.”