UK tech firm unveils world first robotic canteen

DK1 FULL – IN RED crop
Karakuri’s prototype DK-One automated canteen is being showcased at its London headquarters.

London-based food robotics company Karakuri has revealed the world’s first automated canteen to make meals, the DK-One.

At its facility in Hammersmith, the company is showcasing a pre-production version of the robot which uses the latest innovations in robotics, sensing and control technologies to offer freshly prepared hot and cold meals.

The DK-One produces personalised hot and cold meals with portion size accuracy, giving total traceability of ingredients, nutrients, calories and quantity of every meal, which is said to reduce food waste.

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It is also equipped with real-time monitoring of ingredient temperatures, stocking dates and refill times.

Diners are able to customise and place their order from their phone or an in-store tablet. The robot will individually prepare each meal, selecting from 18 hot or cold ingredients with accuracy. The DK-One prepares multiple orders at the same time, ensuring it meets the demand of busy restaurants.

Karakuri believes the robot will optimise scarce human resources, which could improve thin margins for restaurateurs and provide a better working environment for employees.

The DK-One should also minimise human-to-human contact during meal preparation and strictly adheres to food and safety standards for hygiene and allergen separation.

The system has been developed to provide repeatable quality and delivery of meals but also is focused on making sure the machine’s cleanliness can be maintained using equipment readily available in existing commercial kitchens.

Barney Wragg, CEO and co-founder of Karakuri, said: “This is one of the most highly-anticipated stages of our business and a really important step. We’ve spent time talking to our customers and industry specialists, and seen huge enthusiasm for DK-One’s potential. Now up and running, this will be the first time we can use a pre-production machine to demonstrate the DK-One’s commercial and nutritional benefits in the real world and thus demonstrate our vision for the future of food. I am proud of our amazing team for the work they’ve done to get this far this quickly, despite the challenges of the pandemic. We are all really excited to begin fulfilling our customer’s expectations.”

Professor David Lane, CBE, director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and co-chair of the UK Government Robotics Growth Partnership, added: “Even before the pandemic, it was clear there were many opportunities to increase sustainability, resilience and productivity in the catering industry, and to better address changing consumer tastes and lifestyles while reducing the huge amount of wastage. The pandemic has thrown up further challenges of distancing and remote working that can now readily be addressed through robotic innovation. This is why there has been a huge interest in the developments Barney and his team are innovating at Karakuri and it’s a pleasure to be supporting them in the next stage of the business.”

Post-Covid restrictions, further on-customer-site trials of the DK-One are expected to take place in the first half of 2021.

Karakuri has also closed a £6.3m investment, led by firstminute capital and which includes funding from Hoxton Ventures, Taylor Brothers, Ocado Group and the Future Fund, which was developed by the UK government and is being delivered by the British Business Bank. This investment will be used to further accelerate the development of Karakuri’s technologies and create new products beyond the DK-One.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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