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Chipotle introduces guacamole prep robot, Autocado

Year-to-date, shares of Chipotle are on a tear, up nearly 48%.

Chipotle (CMG) is adding a second robot to its fleet. So step aside, Chippy, Autocado is here.

On Wednesday, the fast-casual chain announced the avocado processing prototype dubbed Autocado, created in collaboration with the automation solutions company, Vebu. Currently, it is being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California, but the company aims to roll it out to one of its restaurants later this year.

It cuts, cores, and peels the avocados before they are hand smashed by an employee to make guacamole. A spokesperson said it will reduce prep time by 50%. In its restaurants now, the process takes about 50 minutes. Employees now do all the work, from peeling to hand-mashing, to make the guac from start to finish.

So, how does Autocado do its job?

First, an employee loads the robot with a full case of ripe avocados (up to 25 pounds). Second, the avocados are turned vertically and transferred into the processing device one at a time. Next, they are sliced in half, their core and skin are removed, and the waste is discarded. Fourth, the fruit is collected in a stainless bowl at the bottom. Lastly, an employee removes the bowl to make the guacamole.

Chipotle Mexican Grill  announced Autocado, an avocado processing cobotic prototype developed in collaboration with Vebu. (COURTESY: Chipotle)
Future Guac: Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Autocado, an avocado-processing robotic prototype developed in collaboration with Vebu. (COURTESY: Chipotle)

The business of guac is pretty significant for the burrito chain.

This year, the company is expected to use nearly 4.5 million cases of avocados in its restaurants across the US, Canada, and Europe. That's equivalent to more than 100 million pounds of the fruit.

Chipotle said it couldn't share data on total annual sales of guacamole.

AI? 'Endless possibilities

This is the second robot to be tested at Chipotle.

Last fall Chipotle rolled out Chippy, a robot that makes tortilla chips. These two robots are likely just the start of how automation and AI will play a larger role at the burrito chain.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance in April, Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung said AI presents "endless possibilities" that the company is exploring with its Cultivate Next fund. This new venture is intended to invest in "forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale [and] will help accelerate Chipotle's aggressive growth plans," per a company release.

Hartung warned, though, "There's also a lot of pitfalls as well, so we want to be very careful, very thoughtful."

"Certainly, if there [are] ways we can make the job that our crews do, the jobs that our support staff do to support a restaurant easier, ... and if the end result is we can run better restaurants and serve the customers in a better way, we're certainly going to look at any technology," he added.

Investors seem to like what they're hearing from Hartung and the company. So far this year, shares of Chipotle are on a tear, up nearly 48%.

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com.

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