- The Save Mart Companies has launched an automated dark store in Mountain View, California, that provides same-day grocery delivery and pickup service using a fleet of robots supplied by startup Fulfil Solutions, the companies announced in a Monday press release.
- The service, known as Lucky Now, began operations “a few months ago” and uses technology that can pick and pack items from all grocery categories, regardless of whether the goods need to be kept cold.
- Fulfil, which is emerging from stealth, is taking on established companies in the micro-fulfillment space as grocers look for ways to handle online grocery orders more efficiently.
The artificial intelligence-driven robots operating in Save Mart’s new automated micro-fulfillment system use a combination of machine learning, computer vision and sensor fusion algorithms to track inventory, transport products and pack orders, according to the announcement.
Fulfil’s robots are intended to help grocers cut costs in their e-commerce operations and also offer benefits like reducing carbon emissions and preventing food waste, Mir Aamir, the company’s CEO and president, said in a statement.
The robots are designed to prevent product damage, keep down picking time and balance loads as they traverse the fulfillment center. In addition, Fulfil’s technology monitors each item’s position in the facility while keeping track of their products’ origin and when they are due to expire, the company said. The system can fulfill orders “within minutes” and packs groceries in bags for delivery to a waiting area where drivers retrieve them.
Save Mart’s disclosure that it is working with Fulfil on automated e-commerce fulfillment follows its decision last June to end a partnership with Starship Technologies to use robots from that company to deliver online orders to customers.
Fulfil made clear that it is striving to have a substantial impact on the micro-fulfillment industry, saying in the announcement that its tech “can be customized to meet the needs of grocery stores of any size anywhere in the world.” But as it looks to disrupt the grocery automation sector, the company will face competition from a range of companies, including Fabric, Takeoff Technologies, AutoStore and Ocado, that have been working with grocers on automation solutions for years.
In conjunction with its disclosure that it has built the automated fulfillment center for Save Mart, Fulfil said it recently completed a $60 million Series B fundraising round. Venture capital firm Eclipse, which focuses on firms that “redefine physical industries,” led the round, with participation from investment companies Khosla Ventures and DCVC.
“Today’s online grocery business is built on manual, wasteful and expensive processes. Mir and the team at Fulfil have successfully developed a highly differentiated, full-stack solution to automate the $1 trillion grocery industry by automating all picking and packing,” Jay Knafel, early growth partner at Eclipse, said in a statement.