When you’re dipping into a big bowl of guacamole, you’re likely not thinking about the tedious labor that went into making it. Before you can enjoy an avocado-based dip, someone has to core, peel and slice the actual avocados. Chipotle workers, however, may soon get to hand off that thankless work to an unsuspecting robot.
The fast casual chain is currently testing Autocado, a prototype avocado processing robot that handles the time-consuming prep work before a Chipotle employee mashes the avocados by hand. The machine, which can hold up to 25 pounds of avocados, has the potential to cut in half the amount of time it currently takes Chipotle employees to make a batch of guacamole.
Besides saving time, Autocado could also potentially make the workplace safer. At the height of the avocado toast era, several media outlets reported an uptick in “avocado hand” injuries. According to OSF Healthcare, avocado cutting-related injuries send 9,000 people to the emergency room each year.
Autocado may also help reduce food waste. Chipotle estimates its restaurants across the U.S., Canada and Europe will go through 100 million pounds of avocados this year. Autocado’s precision processing techniques could help save millions of dollars in food waste and Vebu, which partnered with Chipotle to build the machine, said introducing AI to Autocado could lead to even more efficiency and waste reduction.
Chipotle has for years been one of the chain restaurants at the forefront of improving the kitchen through automation. The company last year began testing a robotic assembly line for building burritos under the counter while employees work above. It’s also still testing Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that the company says “integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips.”