Connected Robotics, the Tokyo-based startup that makes food robots, announced yesterday that it has raised a ¥850M ($7.8 million USD) Series A funding round. The round was led by Global Brain Corporation, with participation from 31VENTURES Global Innovation Fund, UTokyo Innovation Platform Co., Ltd., Sony Innovation Fund, and 500 Startups JP, L.L.C. This brings the total amount raised by Connected Robotics to ¥950M ($8.73 million USD).
Connected Robotics currently has two food robots: the OctoChef, which makes fried octopus balls known as Tokoyaki, a popular street food in Japan; and the Reita robot, which serves up soft serve ice cream. With the new money, Connected Robotics will accelerate research and development of new products: its automated dishwasher robot, a hot snacks robot for convenience stores, and an automatic breakfast cooking robot service dubbed “Loraine.”
The food service industry in Japan faces many of the same labor challenges as the U.S. Potential workers are avoiding the hard, repetitive, sometimes dangerous jobs at restaurants. Adding pressure to this labor crunch, Japan is facing an aging population, with 20 percent of its populace 65 years or older (and that number is projected to shoot up past 35 percent by 2050).
Robots and other automated systems can help alleviate this human labor shortage, and a number of companies are jumping in with their automated solutions. Sony has partnered with Carnegie-Mellon University to develop food robots. Miso Robotics’ Flippy is grilling and frying. LG is building a Flippy-like robot with CJ Foodville. And Dishcraft just unveiled its high-volume dishwashing robot.
We’ll actually be taking a first-hand look at food robots in Japan at our upcoming Smart Kitchen Summit: Japan next month. If you know of any good robots serving food in Tokyo, drop us a line and we’ll check it out.