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YPC Technologies, which builds robotic kitchens, today said it has closed $1.8 million in seed funding. The Montreal-based company said it plans to use the financing to expand its engineering team and launch a beta version of its products and services.
CEO Gunnar Grass and Chief Technology Officer Camilo Perez co-founded YPC Technologies in 2016. The startup claims to be building “the first robot that can prepare thousands of recipes, at restaurant quality, using fresh ingredients.” It said its robot is intended to handle repetitive cooking tasks, helping employees to increase their efficiency.
“We leverage modern kitchen appliances with robotics and machine learning to cook fresh, customized meals with great consistency and hygiene,” stated Grass. “Our system allows our B2B [business-to-business] customers to decrease the cost of labor, rent, and food waste and enables consumers to access healthier food at lower cost.”
YPC Technologies offers kitchen robot as a service
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, commercial kitchens struggled with labor shortages, staff turnover, and food hygiene. YPC Technologies said its automation is intended to complement rather than replace human kitchen workers.
The company said its technology is compact and does not require a vented range hood, so it can be operated in locations not suited for a standard commercial kitchen. YPC said its robots can prepare dishes including mushroom risotto, salmon filet on mixed vegetables, and filet mignon with polenta and asparagus.
YPC offers its system on a subscription basis to enterprise clients including restaurants, cafeteria operators, hotels, and cloud kitchens. It said it plans to bring system to market in 2021 with an “industry-leading multinational” partner.
Funding follows Toyota AI Ventures’ smart-city call
Hike Ventures LLC and returning investor Real Ventures co-led YPC Technologies’ seed round, which included investment from Toyota AI Ventures, Uphill Capital, and multiple angel investors.
“YPC Technologies’ versatile approach to robotic cooking has the potential to alter the way we prepare food in a variety of settings, democratizing the access to high-quality meals.” said Mikihiro Yasuda, managing partner at Hike Ventures. “We are excited to co-lead this round with Real Ventures and help YPC to start commercializing their technology.”
YPC Technologies also announced that Kaunteya Nundy, an investment banker who previously helped establish two of Canada’s highest-regarded restaurants, has joined the team as its chief operating officer.
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YPC is the 28th portfolio company announced by Toyota AI Ventures. It had participated in a “call for innovation” that Toyota AI Ventures launched earlier this year in partnership with Toyota Research Institute — Advanced Development (TRI-AD) and Toyota Research Institute (TRI).
Toyota AI Ventures said this year’s global call for innovation was focused on attracting and investing in early-stage startups working to apply artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomy, mobility, cloud, or data to solve real-world problems for smart and connected cities.
“We applied to the call for innovation because we were excited about the opportunity to be a part of Toyota AI Ventures’ vision for a smart city,” Grass said. “We believe that in the future, cities around the world will have hyperlocal, automated kitchens to produce fresh, restaurant-quality food next to the consumer, and we’re thrilled to have the support of Toyota AI Ventures as we continue to grow our company.”
“We received a significant number of qualified applicants through the call, and YPC Technologies captured our attention from the beginning,” said Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures. “It’s easy to imagine automated kitchens becoming a fundamental part of the local, smart-city market ecosystem.”
“Robotic kitchen automation is a nascent space with great market potential,” he added. “YPC’s robotic kitchen enables safe collaboration with humans and simultaneously solves multiple cooking challenges: quantity, quality, and variety. We look forward to working with the YPC Technologies team as they bring their technology to market.”