Robotic Kitchens for Smart Cities: Our Investment in YPC Technologies
In January 2020, we launched the second Toyota AI Ventures “call for innovation,” in partnership with Toyota Research Institute — Advanced Development (TRI-AD) and Toyota Research Institute (TRI). Our goal was to connect with smart cities startups offering solutions in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomy, cloud, data, or mobility that could potentially transform how we live, work, and move. Cities are epicenters for disruption — more than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, a number that is expected to grow to 68% by 2050. Innovation is needed and expected from the products and services to improve our quality of life and support inhabitants.
Since our initial announcement, the global pandemic has dramatically impacted everyone’s lives. But the need for smart cities hasn’t gone away. It’s clearer today that cities need to evolve faster and smarter than ever to serve the changing needs of diverse, densely populated areas — whatever happens next.
That’s why I’m excited to announce our investment in YPC Technologies as a result of our call for innovation. Toyota AI Ventures is joining YPC’s $1.8M seed round, co-led by Hike Ventures and returning investor Real Ventures, with participation from Uphill Capital and multiple angel investors.
Based in Montreal, Canada, YPC Technologies is developing a versatile robotic kitchen that uses fresh ingredients to produce restaurant-quality food. A software-first company, YPC combines robotics, computer vision, and AI with commercial cooking appliances to execute recipes from a library of thousands. The kitchen can produce a full menu, including soups, salads, side dishes, stews, rice dishes, one-pot pastas, and even desserts like ice cream. YPC’s technology controls the robotic arm, enabling it to perceive and navigate its environment while grabbing, moving, and dispensing ingredients into appliances that cook the food.
Gunnar Grass (CEO) and Camilo Perez (CTO) founded YPC Technologies in 2016, and they are using their extensive experience in finance, computer vision, machine learning, and the food service industry to challenge the status quo in food robotics. By integrating robotics with multi-functional cookers and steam ovens, YPC can maximize production, quality, and consistency in a way that is scalable and adaptable.
YPC’s robotic kitchen-as-a-service (KaaS) units are meant for enterprise customers in the restaurant and cafeteria industry. These units can significantly reduce traditional expenses such as inefficient production, staff turnover, and training costs. The system is quickly trained and enables collaboration with human cooks while taking care of the highly repetitive cooking tasks.
We’ve seen restaurants, food delivery, and our eating rituals shift dramatically within the past year, and there is a great opportunity for a solution that mass produces a variety of foods safely and efficiently. But what truly distinguishes YPC’s service is that it can produce food without compromising choice or quality.
At Toyota AI Ventures, we seek technology that amplifies the human experience and we are excited to support the YPC team as they pursue their vision of a world with decentralized automated cooking, making it easier for people living in cities to get healthy, delicious meals.