Chinese tech media outlet 36Kr reported yesterday that BOTINKIT (不停科技), a Shenzhen-based developer of cooking robots, had completed a Series A round of funding valued at tens of millions of US dollars.
The round was led by Forebright Capital, with participation from Pegasus Capital, 5Y Capital, Dami Ventures, as well as existing shareholders Professor Li Zexiang, XBotPark Venture, Professor Ping K. Ko, Brizan Venture, and a few other investors.
Proceeds from this round will go toward product R&D, team building and market expansion.
Founded in January 2021, BOTINKIT, an abbreviation of “bot in kitchen,” has closed multiple fundraising rounds in the past two years. Compared to the previous round, the startup claims to have made headway in software and hardware iteration, AI application and global market foray.
The company is committed to developing next-gen autonomous cooking robots that are able to prepare freshly cooked meals with highly customized tastes and flavors to satisfy individual palates.
The solution the company proposes is in response to a shortage of experienced chefs at many restaurant chains, insufficient digitalization of the catering sector and a lack of standardization in certain sections of the fast food industry.
“Humans should understand food from a brand new perspective; they should eat fresh and cook fresh,” said Chen Rui, founder of CEO of BOTINKIT. “They also should consume food that meets personalized tastes and that is pleasant, constantly made and shared.”
Chen has loftier ambitions than just churning out robots to staff restaurants or substitute chefs.
“Through a combination of robotics and AI, BOTINKIT hopes to redefine cuisine and accelerate the arrival of a digitally-driven gastronomical future by leveraging science and art,” said the catering business veteran and serial entrepreneur.
She is not alone in trying to push the boundary of cooking by introducing cutting-edge technologies. In effect, cooking robot is nothing new as many food tech companies worldwide have built gadgets to either automate entire cooking processes or resolve labor shortages and inconsistency in food quality.
BOTINKIT has set itself apart from peers by developing robots with proprietary built-in sensors. They are able to monitor key culinary factors like temperature, seasoning, ingredient and so on. Besides, these robot chefs can work in a concerted mode through control modules.
The startup employs AI technologies such as multi-sensory fusion, multi-modal sensing and multi-dimension data mining, to automate recipes, analyze tastes and guide the cooking.
Relying on these technical strengths, BOTINKIT has expanded globally, providing top restaurant chains and supermarkets with end-to-end, all-in-one digital kitchen solutions.
Its flagship product BOTINKIT MAX is a so-called third-generation kitchen robot that can heat up automatically, with the temperature inside the pot reaching 300 degrees Celsius.
Moreover, 16 kinds of different seasonings can be pumped into the pot without any help from human, the company says.
BOTINKIT has established a foothold in seven countries and regions, becoming a culinary equipment supplier of Fortune 500 companies, according to the 36Kr story.
Chen of BOTINKIT said the high labor costs and demand for consistent taste and quality of food are part of the driving force behind substitution of human chefs with robots.
“Just like warehouses and factories are becoming digitalized, traditional kitchens are certain to be digitalized as well,” she told 36Kr. “Our topnotch clients have been expecting good comprehensive solutions all along.”
In its home market, the startup has been working on a consumer-facing cooking robot, a segment already teaming with rivals, aside from forging partnerships with emerging restaurant chains that Chen said are more “energetic and rational.”
“The growth of advanced sensors and AI is hastening the arrival of a digitally-driven gastronomical future, ” said Chu Li, a partner at Forebright Capital, a lead investor of BOTINKIT. “We are very glad to see the firm making innovations and strides in this realm.”
Professor Ping K. Ko of HKUST said his investment in the food tech firm is inspired by a vision to provide diners with more variety.
“We not only enable our customers to cook their favorite native dishes, but also give them numerous options to experiment cooking international dishes,”, said Ko, who is also founding partner of Brizan Ventures. “We empower our customers to cook healthy and delicious meals by providing them with key nutritious data at their fingertips.”