Ocado leads £7m investment in food robot firm

Investors led by Ocado have backed a robotics firm specialising in meal assembly in a funding round worth £7 million.

Karakuri’s machine automates the creation of food-to-go options, allowing restaurants and food retailers to make personalised meals.

Ocado has taken a stake in the company for around £4 million. Other investors include Deliveroo backer Hoxton Ventures and lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman’s vehicle Firstminute Capital.

Tim Steiner, founder and CEO of Ocado, said: “Ocado is constantly striving to identify the best and most innovative solutions to provide consumers with the greatest possible value, choice and convenience.

“Our investment in Karakuri, potentially a game-changer in the preparation of food-to-go, gives us the opportunity to bring the best of innovation to the benefit of our own customers as well as those of our partners.”

Ocado plans to use the machinery to expand its offer, especially in its new immediate service Zoom, which will stock up to 10,000 products for delivery within 60 minutes.

It will take delivery of the first Karakuri machine later this year.

Karakuri was founded by Simon Watt and Barney Wragg and aims to help food providers move away from mass pre-packaged meals to options made onsite.

Mr Wragg, who is also chief executive, said it could be used to take the pressure off restaurants, cafes and food retailers by catering for customer needs.

“These providers have historically relied on identically mass produced meals to maintain their profit margins,” he said.

“By using robotics and machine learning, Karakuri’s systems provide localised micro-manufacturing within an existing restaurant, retail or commercial kitchen.

“Our systems prepare personalised meals onsite in real time to the exact requirements of each customer.

“At the same time, our technology aims to minimise food waste, packaging and distribution costs and all of the associated environmental impact.”

The company has previously received the backing of Mr Hoberman’s Founders Factory.

Mr Hoberman, who is also chairman of the company, said: “The time is now for robotics and AI to drive change in the restaurant and food services business.”

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