Fast casual restaurant chain Chipotle has doubled its commitment to its Cultivate Next venture fund to $100m to pursue more start-up partnerships.  

The fund, which was introduced in 2022, targets early-stage companies that align with the company’s mission to “Cultivate a Better World” and accelerate its plans to operate 7,000 restaurants in North America.

The additional $50m will enable Cultivate Next to further invest in areas crucial to Chipotle’s mission such as supply chain enhancement, agricultural innovation, restaurant technology, automation and sustainability.

Through this investment, the company hopes to bolster its long-term growth.

Chipotle chief customer and technology officer Curt Garner said: “Our decision to double our commitment to our Cultivate Next venture fund is a clear indicator that we are investing in the right companies that we can learn from and utilise to improve the human experience of our restaurant teams, farmers and suppliers.

“The parallel growth of Chipotle and our partners will continue to further our mission to Cultivate a Better World by increasing access to real food.”

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Cultivate Next has so far invested in a diverse array of companies pioneering advancements in farming, supply chain logistics, robotics and plant-based foods.

The increased funding will expand Chipotle’s portfolio: GreenField Robotics, Hyphen, Local Line, Meati Foods, Nitricity, Vebu and Zero Acre Farms.

Local Line, a local food sourcing provider, used Chipotle’s investment to digitise its operations, increase customer retention rate, build a farm database and expand to serve international farms in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

It invested in GreenField Robotics which aims to transform regenerative farming with AI and robotics, creating autonomous robots that weed crops while minimising herbicide use.

Nitricity is developing environmentally friendly fertilisers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with plans to launch its first commercial product soon.

Funding from Cultivate Next will help Nitricity scale up its production of nitrogen, build out infrastructure and support the launch of its first commercial product within the next two years.

Vebu is collaborating with Chipotle on Autocado, an avocado-processing cobotic prototype, while Hyphen is working on automating kitchen operations to enhance efficiency.

Meati Foods produces whole-food products made from MushroomRoot. Chipotle is partnering with the company to find opportunities to bring real, fresh vegetables into its menu.

Zero Acre Farms, which produces sustainable oils and fats through fermentation, is also part of Chipotle’s investment strategy.