With Launch of Bowl Food Robot, Cibotica Points to Dispensing Technology and Small Footprint as Differentiators

This week, Canadian food robot startup Cibotica announced that its first food robot is fully operational in a multi-brand ‘digital food hall’ called Food Republic in Vancouver, Canada. According to the company, the fully robotic makeline named Remy can assemble up to 300 salads per hour utilizing the company’s proprietary dispensing technology.

Cibotica cofounder Ashkan Mirnabavi says that after he opened his first restaurant in 2019, he experienced the challenges firsthand around finding and training employees to keep his restaurant up and running. The former engineer turned restaurant operator started looking at available automation technology but felt none of the available solutions fit what he was looking for, so he joined forces with his two other cofounders, Darius Sahebjavaher (CTO) and Soroush Sefidkar (co-CEO), to start a food robotics company.

Once they started looking at different technologies, such as robotic arms, Mirnabavi said they knew they had to build a system that integrated with existing restaurant operations. They soon started thinking about building a robotic makeline and focused on a system that had the flexibility to do a variety of ingredients and fit into existing restaurant kitchen spaces.

“We learned that the biggest hurdle is the dispensing and accurately dispensing ingredients,” said Mirnabavi. “All these other solutions that existed, you had to have different technology for different ingredients, which makes your assembly line much bigger. And that’s where we said, ‘okay if we can come up with one solution that is capable of basically all types of ingredients with different characteristics and a different temperature,’ we might be able to solve it.”

With the system now operating in his Food Republic digital food hall, Mirnabavi and his partners are eyeing a variety of future applications and partners that can utilize its robot.

“Quick service restaurants, salad bowls, they were like an entry point for us,” said Mirnabavi. “Fresh produce processing centers, where they go through tons and tons of ingredients. Meal kit companies, there is a lot of manual work. There are markets where there are assembly lines, where people scoop different ingredients into these small, smaller, pre-packaged meals and put everything in a box. Application-wise, the market is huge.”

The market’s getting crowded quickly, with a variety of players such as Hyphen, Lab37, Eatch, and TechMagic offering robotic food assembly for a QSR’s back of house. Cibotica believes their focus on flexibility and small footprint should garner interest from restaurant partners who want to use automation for bowl food assembly in their restaurants.

As for business models, Mirnabavi says, at least for the time being, the company plans to offer a flexible model for its early customers, either through a robotics-as-a-service monthly payment plan or through the purchase of the machines. As time passes, he says they may choose to use one model over the other. The company is currently raising money for their next round of investment.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.

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