Soft Robotics Scoops Up $20M in Latest Logistics Automation Deal

Venture investment in logistics robot companies keeps coming. Today, Cambridge, MA-based Soft Robotics said it has raised $20 million in a new funding round led by Hyperplane Venture Capital.

The deal brought in a slew of new investors, including Scale Venture Partners, Calibrate Ventures, Honeywell Ventures, Tekfen Ventures, and Yamaha Motor Ventures. They’re all looking for ways into the booming automation market—applying robotics technologies to areas like e-commerce order fulfillment, warehouse systems, manufacturing, and food.

Soft Robotics has developed a soft gripper system (see photo) that can pick and place items in food, packaging, and assembly tasks. The technology came out of the George Whitesides lab at Harvard University. The idea is to build some intelligence into the gripper material itself so that the robotic system can safely grasp and manipulate things of different sizes, shapes, and weights—think apples, marshmallow Peeps, soda cans—without having to do a lot of computations about how to pick them up.

The company seems to be finding some success with customers, particularly in food and beverage applications. “We’ve been able to address some of our customers’ largest supply chain and automation challenges, from picking and packing fresh produce and raw proteins, to bin picking and retail order fulfillment,” says Soft Robotics CEO Carl Vause in a prepared statement.

The funding comes on the heels of some other similar-sized deals in logistics automation, such as 6 River Systems’ $25 million round, Locus Robotics’ $25 million round, and Fetch Robotics’ $25 million round. Other players in the sector include Vecna Robotics, RightHand Robotics, Rethink Robotics, NextShift Robotics, and the godfather of warehouse automation, Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics).

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