Chipotle invests to improve the future of farming

December 15, 2023

U.S.-based Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it is investing in Greenfield Robotics, a company leveraging the latest advances in AI, robotics and sensing technologies, and Nitricity, a company creating fertilizer products.

These minority investments are being made through Chipotle’s USD$50 million Cultivate Next venture fund.

In a news release, Chipotle stated that Cultivate Next makes early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further Chipotle’s mission to ‘Cultivate a Better World’ and help accelerate the company’s aggressive growth plans. Chipotle is seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its restaurant teams and suppliers as well as increase access and convenience for its guests.

Greenfield Robotics’ fleets of autonomous robots are lightweight and cut weeds between rows of broadacre crops, day or night. With its Cultivate Next investment, Greenfield Robotics will continue its efforts to build out its fleet of autonomous agricultural robots and develop additional capabilities for forthcoming iterations of its robots, including micro-spraying, cover crop planting, and soil testing.

“We will help Greenfield Robotics scale their robotic offerings and explore how their robots can be deployed on farms within our supply chain,” said Curt Garner, chief customer and technology officer, Chipotle.

Inspired by the natural occurrence of lightning breaking down nitrogen in the air and rainwater bringing it to the soil as nitrate to create natural fertilizer, Nitricity has pioneered a practice of creating artificial lightning. The company leverages air, water and renewable energy from the artificial lightning to produce a more sustainable and cost-efficient fertilizer. Nitricity claims its nitrogen fertilizer has five to 10 times less GHG emissions due to its electrified production and field application process.

Nitricity has started field trials for their fertilizer product with Salinas Valley farmers, including Chipotle suppliers in the region. Funding from Cultivate Next will be used to scale up Nitricity’s production of nitrogen, build out the company’s infrastructure and support the launch of its first commercial product within the next two years.

According to Jack Hartung, chief financial and administrative officer, Chipotle, fertilizers have experienced steep price increases in recent years due to supply chain issues, fossil fuel price volatility, and rising distribution costs. “Nitricity’s fertilizer offering not only has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of the fertilizer industry, but it can be a cost-effective solution for growers in our supply chain.”

Chipotle will continue to provide more updates on the Cultivate Next venture fund in 2024 and beyond.

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