Technology & Equipment

Department of Defense plans to install robot chefs at military bases

The agency is purchasing 10 robots to help reduce food waste and support staffing at dining facilities.
Alfred the robot
Alfred in action at Travis Air Force Base / Photo courtesy of Dexai Robotics

The U.S. Department of Defense's latest recruit is a robotic chef named Alfred.

The agency is contracting with Dexai Robotics to bring 10 of its automated sous chefs to U.S. military bases, the organizations said on Wednesday. The bots will help reduce food waste, improve sanitation and keep its facilities adequately staffed, per the DOD.

“Our goal is to make our operations more efficient, safer, easier, and more sustainable,” said Jim Krueger, chief of Air Force food and beverage policy, procedures and strategic initiatives, in a statement. “In terms of functionality, ease of implementation, and flexibility, Alfred far surpassed anything else we saw on the market.”

The department is spending $1.6 million on the 10 robots, the first of which started work at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., at the end of last year. The bot is stationed at the Monarch Dining Facility, which serves an average of 950 people a day.

Alfred is a robotic arm that uses AI and computer vision to interact with its surroundings, and can be installed in any commercial kitchen, according to Dexai. It can use standard kitchen utensils and can prepare a variety of meals and cuisine types. 

The department said it will monitor the bots to decide whether to expand the program to more bases.

Dexai was founded in 2018 as a spinoff of Draper, a nonprofit research organization founded in 1932 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientist Charles Stark Draper. Alfred was developed specifically to address labor shortages in the foodservice industry.

It is the latest example of a foodservice operator bringing robots on board. Last week, restaurant chain White Castle said it planned to add robotic fry-cook Flippy at 100 locations, and others are turning to robots to help out in the front of house. The shift comes as the industry remains short about 1 million jobs compared to before the pandemic.

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