Can soft robotics reduce global food wastage in the supply chain by 30-40%?
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So, one of the things we
always get asked about is, is the food wastage problem real? It’s real; it’s a problem, and here at Soft Robotics, we
solve that problem every day. Hello, I’m Carl Vause. I’m the Chief Executive Officer of Soft Robotics Incorporated, a small robotics startup
in Bedford, Massachusetts, changing the way that we get robots to interact with everyday items. So why Soft Robotics? The problem is, robots are really bad at interacting with objects, and the way the robot
community has spent decades is building, what I like to
call, the terminator hand, and you’ve probably seen these before, is it’s all these metal joints, and there’s all these sensors, and we’ve been tryin’ to
recreate the human hand. So why are we trying to solve one of the most complex
structures in the world, when there’s very good
things, that are very simple, that pick up objects very well? The octopus, and so, if you think about it, and octopus can pick
up just about anything, but it does it a little
bit differently than we do. They just gently wrap around something. They envelop it, and they pick it up. The Soft Robotics system
just automatically adjusts and grasps. You can put your hand in sideways, and it will just gently squeeze it, and so we’re picking things up like an octopus would pick things up. It sounds contrite, but it is actually unbelievably complex and
simple at the same time. So one of the areas that
robotics is really fast-growing is food. Food wastage is a major, major problem, and I can tell you I’ve personally seen 20, 30, 40% food wastage in
supply chain and processing. The problem is, in the
developed economies, we don’t have enough
people to do these jobs, and so I have a couple days
to harvest my strawberries, but then it has to go
into a packaging facility, where it’s sorted, it’s washed. All of that requires
human labor at this point. The entire food supply chain
is mostly reliant upon humans. This is where robotics are
really a sustainable initiative, because now I know I can
automate my packaging. With Soft Robotics, we’ve been able to automate
the packaging of food, whether it’s tomatoes, baked goods, strawberries, corn on the cob, to insure that every piece of
food, whether farm or grown, gets through the supply
chain to your customer. Now where do I see this
technology going is we’re very interested in humans
and robots working together. Working along side the
robot is really important, because there’s a huge area
where we want robot co-workers. A lot of times at Soft Robotics, we talk about the human-robot alliance. It’s not robots taking jobs. It’s humans doing human work, that require all the smarts
and the skills that we have, and robots doing, maybe, the
more mundane type of jobs, but you have to have a robot co-worker that’s gonna be safe to work around, and so, with Soft Robotics, we both can handle all the items, but we can work safely along side people. I fundamentally believe, if you get the right people together, they’re motivated, and you
give them a big enough problem, they’ll solve it, and so, going after those big problems, if that’s the definition of ambitious, I think we’re a very ambitious company.

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