I’m feeling some deja vu. A record number of robots were shipped in North America last year, according to new stats released yesterday from the Robotics Industry Association (RIA), part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). The food industry was among the top non-automotive sectors buying.

From the press announcement:

35,880 units were shipped in 2018, a 7 percent increase over 2017, with 16,702 shipments to non-automotive companies, up 41 percent. Notable growth came in areas like food and consumer goods (48 percent), plastics and rubber (37 percent), life sciences (31 percent), and electronics (22 percent).

Like the remainder in The Matrix, I feel like I’ve written this before because I did when A3 announced record shipments at the end of 2017.

For comparison, the A3’s 2017 report said that 27,294 orders for robots were placed during the first nine months of that year, with food and consumer goods accounting for 21 percent of that total. Caveat: it’s not a one-to-one comparison as the 2017 report only accounted for nine months, but you can see the general growth year-over-year, especially when it comes to percentage of shipments to food and consumer goods (an admittedly broad category) companies.

Additionally, in its press release, the A3 called out the fact that robot buyers are not just large, multi-national companies anymore; more small and medium-sized businesses are using robots now as well.

This kind of data isn’t surprising to us at The Spoon, as we spent a good part of 2018 chronicling the rise of robots throughout the food stack. From hauling gear on farms, to micro-fulfillment centers in the back of grocery stores, to robot restaurants and little rover bots delivering meals, robots are an increasingly central part of the meal journey.

I expect I’ll be writing about 2019 being another record year for robot shipments this time next year.

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