February 20, 2018

Robotics startup lands $20 million for grocery fulfillment system

Robotics startup lands $20 million for grocery fulfillment system

CommonSense Robotics plans to open automated facilities in U.S. cities this year, firm says.

By DC Velocity Staff

Logistics technology startup CommonSense Robotics said today it has raised $20 million in venture capital to support its system of providing warehouse robots for the online grocery delivery sector, and plans to open facilities in the U.S. later this year.

Tel Aviv, Israel-based CommonSense says it can provide profitable, one-hour delivery for online grocery retailers by converting urban retail space into micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) that are filled with hundreds of small robots that store, sort, and process inventory.

The investment brings the company's total funding to $26 million, and was led by Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm Playground Global as well as the Israeli venture fund Aleph VC and Innovation Endeavors, the investment firm created by Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google Inc. parent company.

CommonSense plans to use the additional capital to build more fulfillment centers, develop its next generation of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), and expand global operations and sales, the company said. The company is currently deploying the first generation of its robots in its first operational facility, and plans to open more fulfillment centers in the U.S., U.K., and Israel this year.

The company's approach to e-grocery fulfillment appears to be similar to that of Takeoff Technologies, a Boston-area startup that is also planning to launch a series of highly automated urban micro-fulfillment centers offering either curbside pickup or home delivery of groceries. But while Takeoff plans to automate its grocery fulfillment centers with robotic shuttle technology provided by logistics solutions provider Knapp AG, CommonSense is developing its own robots.

CommonSense declined to provide further details on its robotic systems, saying through a spokesman they are supplying on-demand fulfillment as a service, not selling the technology itself. However, the company's website features a photograph of plastic totes being carried by small, rectangular vehicles that look similar to the autonomous warehouse robots made by Amazon Robotics, Clearpath Robotics Inc.'s Otto Motors, or Fetch Robotics Inc.

The company says its solution will allow retailers to shorten the grocery supply chain by storing inventory in urban locations close to customers instead of warehouses outside of cities, enabling more affordable, on-demand delivery than grocers can currently provide. "The epicenter of this shift [to on-demand retail] is a drastic change to how food is accessed, bought, paid for, and eventually prepared," CommonSense CEO and co-founder Elram Goren said in a statement.

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