The robotics industry is having a major moment amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s true that category has been an exciting target for investments for a number of years now, but labor issues and concerns over transmission have led many sectors to take a good, long look at automation.
Meal preparation is a prime target. It’s an essential service and one that finds human hands coming into direct content with food. Leipzig, Germany-based DaVinci Kitchen is looking to tackle issues around food preparation with the launch of a modular robotic kiosk that cooks Italian-themed pasta dishes.
In 2018, German incubator 2b AHEAD Ventures assembled the team that would become DaVinci to address concerns around labor shortages in the food preparation industry.
“The catering industry is gigantic,” CTO Ibrahim Elfaramawy told TechCrunch on a call ahead of the startup’s participation in Disrupt Battlefield. “Everyone has to eat. We see our clients struggling to find qualified personnel. The jobs are getting tougher, the pay is not increasing, unfortunately. A lot of restaurant owners are looking for solutions to increase their capabilities and quality. Robots can work 24/7. This is the opportunity that we see and many of our clients are excited about it.”
The first batch of robots will focus on pasta — a relatively easily prepared dish with universal appeal. The machine creates the pasta, cooks and serves it all in around six minutes, according to Elfaramawy. It can prepare two dishes simultaneously and cleans the dishes in around 20-30 seconds.
The system is modular, so the machine can potentially be outfitted to prepare other foodstuff, including salads or prepare different takes on the pasta theme, swapping Italian style for an Asian dish, for example.
Thus far, the small company has raised around $780,000 in a seed round, courtesy of 2b AHEAD and Rheine-based frozen food company, Apetito, which is also one of DaVinci’s first clients. The startup is also in the process of raising a Series A with a target of $1.7 million. Its first kiosks are on track to be delivered in late-2020 or early 2021, depending on COVID-19’s impact on the company’s supply chains. The first batch will include 10 machines.
The company is targeting restaurants and food courts, which can buy or lease the robots.