The Soft Robotics technology combines 3D vision, artificial intelligence and soft grasping.
Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, participated in a $26 million Series C funding round to expand the commercial development of robotic picking solutions from Soft Robotics.
"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 artificial intelligence (AI) platform have the potential to transform the food industry and will play a key role in any company's automation journey."
Tyson Foods has invested more than $215 million in robotics and other automation technologies in the past five years. Most recently, the venture capitalist arm invested in Mentore, a startup that specializes in wearable digital technology to track worker movement and improve ergonomics and Tangible Robotics Inc, a robotics manufacturer offering the possibility to automate tasks requiring true dexterity and manipulation abilities beyond simple pick-and-place.
Marel and Johnsonvville helped round out the list of investors for the Soft Robotics funding round.
"We believe Soft Robotics offers best-in-class pick and place systems which are applicable to numerous primary and secondary processing operations. Applications that reduce repetitive motion and improve employee safety, in addition to enhancing productivity, are welcomed improvements for any operation,” said Kevin Ladwig, managing director of Johnsonville Ventures.
Move towards processing automation
Poultry processing facilities face increased workforce challenges. Typically, the robot is responsible for any repetitive task, freeing up the human worker to perform more complex, thought-intensive tasks. Tyson Foods is already an existing user of the Soft Robotics technology, which could automate bulk picking processes of irregularly shaped objects in the food supply chain.
"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, Chief Executive Officer of Soft Robotics.
"SRI's technologies are increasingly crucial to enabling and scaling efficient and safe production of several food categories. This round of growth capital strengthens SRI's ability to rapidly develop, deploy and support those technologies."
The Soft Robotics technology was featured at the 2022 Poultry Tech Summit.
Attend the 2023 Poultry Tech Summit
The Poultry Tech Summit is the only event of its kind that connects researchers and entrepreneurs with poultry sector technology experts, financiers, venture capitalists and producers looking for new projects and investments to fund. Since its 2018 inception, this unique conference has facilitated and fast-tracked many pioneering ideas into adoption for the benefit of the poultry supply chain
Details on the 2023 Poultry Tech Summit will be released in Spring 2023.
By Elizabeth Doughman
Managing Editor at WATT Global Media