WALLA WALLA, WASH. — Wilkinson Baking Co., creator of the world’s first fully-automated commercial bread baking robot, has raised $3 million in seed funding from prominent Washington investor Ken Peterson of Columbia Ventures Corp., Rich Product Ventures and several angel investors. The funds primarily will be used to build and deploy additional BreadBots, Wilkinson Baking said.
Over the past 10 years, Wilkinson Baking has been formulating a commercial version of its “BreadBot,” a robot that mixes, forms, proofs, bakes and cools bread before notifying employees that completed loaves are ready to be sliced. This summer, the first BreadBot was deployed into Andy’s Market in College Place, Wash. The company is manufacturing and assembling additional BreadBots and expects to have 20 units deployed by early 2023.
“We are having engaging conversations with grocers who see our vision for changing the way bread is manufactured and distributed,” said Paul Rhynard, who earlier this year was named chief executive officer of Wilkinson Baking. “This is just the beginning of our journey with a highly disruptive solution that brings truly fresh bread to consumers, thanks in part to our incredible new partners.”
One of those new partners is Columbia Ventures Corp., a private equity diversified holding company with investments in agriculture, augmented reality, biomedical, manufacturing, real estate development, software and telecommunications.
“In an era of high transportation costs and staffing constraints, I immediately recognized the potential for the BreadBot,” said Ken Peterson, CEO of Columbia Ventures. “The company required capital to unlock its next phase of growth, and I was excited to partner with WBC and the Wilkinson family to build more BreadBots and see them deployed in grocery stores.”
Another partner is Rich Products Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Buffalo, NY-based Rich Products Corp. Rich Products Venture’s mission is “investing in the companies that will shape the future of food through technology and innovation.” Other investments in Rich Products Ventures portfolio include Atomo, BlueNalu, Byte Technology, Chinova Bioworks, Every, Future Meat, Good Eggs, Grabango, Kitchen United, MycoTechnology, Strella Biotechnology, Thistle and Tovala.
“Wilkinson is uniquely positioned to meet the many needs of grocers, bringing better bread margins, fresher product, and an improved in-store experience all through automation that does not require additional labor,” said Dinsh Guzdar, managing director of Rich Products Ventures.Prior to the series seed raise, WBC funded the company through founder contributions, angel investors, and convertible debt, which was converted into preferred equity at the close of the round.