The Ocado Group has acquired two US robotics companies following a minority stake in an Greek robotics manufacturer.
The group, which also includes a retail arm, acquired Kindred Systems of San Francisco for its piece-picking robotics and machine learning vision technology for $262m. A second deal for $25m acquired Haddington Dynamics in Las Vegas, a designer of robotic arms, again used for picking general items off shelves for online deliveries.
This follows an investment in Myrmex in Athens, Greece to develop robotics systems for the Group.
"We consider the opportunities for robotic manipulation solutions to be significant, both for Ocado Smart Platform clients and across the fast-growing online retail and logistics sectors,” said Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado. “We believe they have the capabilities to allow us to accelerate delivery, innovate more, and grow faster. I am also excited by the opportunity to enter new markets for robotic solutions outside of grocery that is demonstrated by Kindred Systems' robust growth, with existing customers such as Gap and American Eagle across the general merchandise and logistics sectors."
“Ocado has made meaningful progress in developing the machine learning, computer vision and engineering systems required for the robotic picking solutions that are currently in production at our Customer Fulfilment Centre in Erith [London]. Given the market opportunity we want to accelerate the development of our systems, including improving their speed, accuracy, product range and economics.”
"I am proud to see Kindred Systems and our brilliant team recognised by Ocado as a leader in robotic pick and place manipulation, and we are extremely excited to realise our next chapter as part of them,” said Marin Tchakarov, CEO of Kindred Systems.
The company has 90 staff, half engineers, at its headquarters and in Toronto. It was one of the first companies to successfully use deep reinforcement learning to develop piece-picking robots with AI-powered vision and motion control. Once a robot is installed, Kindred Systems provides