NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. — Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is forming Cultivate Next, a $50 million venture fund targeting seed to Series B stage companies.

The new venture will make early-stage investments in companies that can accelerate the fast casual restaurant chain’s strategic priorities, including its “food with integrity” mission, a commitment to serve food that is ethically and sustainably sourced. Financed exclusively by Chipotle, the fund also will partner with startups that can improve restaurant operations, amplify technology and expand access and convenience for consumers.

“We are exploring investments in emerging innovation that will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionize the restaurant industry,” said Curt Garner, chief technology officer at Chipotle. “Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle’s aggressive growth plans.”

Cultivate Next is the latest in a series of innovation-focused initiatives for the Newport Beach, Calif.-based company. It recently began testing an artificially intelligent robot to cook its tortilla chips, as well as radio-frequency identification to trace and track ingredients in its restaurants. Last year Chipotle made an investment in Nuro, an autonomous delivery company using driverless vehicles. Other recent initiatives include the launch of its first digital-only store and a sustainability impact tracker for digital orders.

Companies interested in collaborating with Chipotle through Cultivate Next can apply by emailing [email protected].