BEDFORD, MASS. – Soft Robotics Inc. announced a $10 million Series B extension. Soft Robotics will use the capital to further expand commercial operations to meet COVID-19 pandemic-fueled demand and aid the launch of its SoftAI powered robotic solutions. SoftAI adds 3D vision and artificial intelligence technologies to its patented IP69K-rated, soft grasping to give industrial robots the hand-eye coordination closer to that of human beings. The new layers of robotic “hands,” “eyes” and “brains” furthers the automation of bulk picking processes in the food supply chain.
The round was co-led by Material Impact, Scale Venture Partners, and Calibrate Ventures and 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 challenged food supply chain in areas such as agriculture, food processing and logistics,” said Mark Chiappetta, chief operations officer of 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.”
Food processors such as Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods have a vision of the future in which robotic automation helps improve safety and increases production in their facilities to meet the demand for high-quality, safe and nutritious protein products. Tyson Foods has invested about $500 million in new technology and automation in the last three years and currently uses Soft Robotics.
“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 of 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 COVID-19 pandemic has increased the pressure to automate in response to workforce challenges and take operational and food safety to a higher level in food production. Soft Robotics has experienced more demand for its products and has delivered the two largest sales quarters in the company’s seven-year history.
“This is an exciting time at Soft Robotics,” said Jeff Beck, chief executive officer at 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. Soft Robotics patented technologies are ready and being used today to enable automation in the processing and packaging of proteins, produce and bakery products. 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.”