From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Charlie fed Google employees for a while before he left in 2006. He and his team were serving 4,000 daily lunches and dinners in 10 cafes across the Mountain View campus. After that, he opened his own restaurant, Calafia Café, in Palo Alto before landing in automated food service with Deepak Sekar.
Sally, Deepak Sekar’s creation, is a salad robot that creates custom salads in less than a minute. Sally is an intuitive machine. Users place a bowl beneath the dispenser, make selections and simply watch her drop each ingredient in the bowl and compose the salad.
Food and Technology Intersection
Charlie could be defined as a food-tech maker. As a chef, he is a maker in the food space, where he chooses, assembles, processes, and transforms ingredients to build new creations. He enjoys playing in the intersection between food and technology, a passion that gives him a different prospective. That’s why one of the first locations to pilot Sally is Calafia Café.
Sally’s patent-pending canister system is designed to maintain and protect the integrity of the ingredients. Furthermore, the precision of the dispensing system enables users to build salads that suit their nutritional needs. What makes Sally different than a vending machine is the use of sensors and various moving parts inside. There is a relevant motion in Sally. It is not just dropping things out. Chopped, whole, and liquid ingredients are stored in individual smart tubes which are constantly communicating with the software.
Still Working on It
Like every prototype, there are still some parts of the product that Sekar and his team are figuring out.
Ingredients are cut into small pieces, which is perfect for software engineers who want to graze while they work. However, this means that soft ingredients are not possible so far. So avocado is (tragically) missing, as well as fruit. Furthermore, Sally can’t mix salads yet. She just serves a combination of layered ingredients that should consequently mixed by the final user.
The Main Learnings
Sally’s story is an interesting “food meets technology” case. Combining different industries proves again to be a key point in cornerstone innovation. Deepak and his team are bridging robotics, food service, and vending machines to create a new appealing product. Furthermore, they have been intelligently looking for the most suitable place for their creation. Makers’ prototypes and products need to be put into consumers hands as soon as possible and techie hubs seem to be the right niche to make the difference.