It’s a Guac in the Park: Chipotle and Vebu Unite to Test Avocado Prep Cobot

August 01, 2023 by Stephanie Leonida

Vebu and Chipotle collaborate to enhance and test the capabilities of Autocado, a guacamole prep cobot that could slash prep time by as much as 50%.

The fast food restaurant chain owner, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., announced the testing of an avocado processing robot, developed in collaboration with Vebu, a pioneer of automation technologies and solutions for the food industry. The prototype machine halves, pits, and scoops out the avocado pulp, ready for further processing to make Chipotle’s signature guacamole.

In this lasted ‘queso’ study in the capabilities of automation, Vebu has developed the new Autocado cobot, enhancing its processing speed and is also working on the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to enable quality checking and food waste quantification.


Peeling and cutting avocados

Autocado is an avocado cutting, pitting, and scooping mean machine that is hoped to help cut prep time and allow workers to focus more on tending to restaurant guests. Image used courtesy of Chipotle


Lock, Guac’, and Load

The 25 lb-payload Autocado cobot is nacho ordinary robot. It is loaded with a crate of avocados and a setting is chosen to indicate size. The machine then vertically aligns the individual avocados for processing. The skin and core of the avocados are removed and they are cut in half with waste removed and discarded.

The pulp of the avocado fruit is deposited into a stainless-steel bowl located at the bottom of the machine. This pulp is then collected by a member of staff at Chipotle to add the final ingredients to make the restaurant’s signature guacamole.


Avocados and Avocadon’ts of Food Preparation

For the restaurant industry, cutting down food prep time can allow staff to channel more energy into hospitality and enhance guest experience. For anyone making guacamole—even simply at home, and not preparing for a crowd of hungry guests—it can be a struggle, especially if you are grappling with an unyielding avocado seed that won't succumb to the blows of a well-positioned knife or spoon.

Vebu has worked with accredited training managers from Chipotle restaurants to examine the company's planning process and taco ‘bout the duties that take a lot of time and are unfavorable to the crew. At the moment, the process of chopping, pitting, and shelling avocados to make a batch of guacamole takes about 50 minutes.


Loading the Autocado robot

The Autocado is loaded and unloaded by hand, but the processing takes place inside. Image used courtesy of Chipotle


Guac’ing and Rolling with Reduced Time and Waste

Vebu is working hard to improve Autocado’s processing speed, eventually aiming to cut guacamole prep time by 50%.

Chipotle also aims to meet its sustainability goals, using the Autocado cobot to cut down on food waste by increasing avocado fruit yield via more precise processing. This could result in several million dollars in yearly food cost reductions if the cobot is successfully built and widely adopted. Automation, after all, is the result of investigating which parts of the process consume the most time, and are easier to replicate with machines.

In future, the Autocado cobot will also integrate AI and ML—courtesy of Vebu—to improve machine efficiency, quality check avocados, and quantify the minimization of waste.


From Guac’ Prep to Meal Production

Chipotle contributes to Vebu with its $50 million startup fund called CULTIVATE NEXT. The fund supports businesses that share its commitment to cultivating a better world and promotes rapid expansion. The emphasis is on improving access and convenience for visitors as well as boosting satisfaction for restaurant teams. HYPHEN, a system for automating restaurant kitchen activities, and CHIPPY, an autonomous culinary helper transforming tortilla chip manufacture, are examples of prior successful investments. The Makeline, the first product from HYPHEN, is a system that automates meal production for all digital purchases while enabling personnel to put together meals that come through customer orders at the front desk using advanced robotics and software.

These tactical expenditures serve as a testament to Chipotle's dedication to the development of new, sustainable food technologies for a brighter future filled with more pico de gallo and enchiladas which, as everyone knows, we can always use more.

With a large added side order of guacamole.