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Could the non-food foothold be key?

02 November 2020

The new market angle could be most important as Ocado makes two ambitious robotic tech acquisitions.

It was very interesting to see Ocado make two robotic picking acquisitions today.

Most of the focus will, understandably, be on the tech. Ocado already has a leading position in automated grocery warehousing for home deliveries. It is first class in terms of space utilisation, mechanical speed and precision, as well as software control. 

This has allowed Ocado to diversify from its core position of online grocer to technology platform provider, as it has sold this system to a growing roster of leading retailers worldwide.

In tech terms, Ocado sees the acquisitions building on its own development in machine learning, computer vision and engineering systems and complementing them with better robotic arm tech. Indeed the Dexter HDI 7+ axis robot from Haddington Dynamics looks amazing.

However, one of the acquired companies, Kindred AI, has a considerable business in non-food warehouse automation. This foothold could offer Ocado a tasty growth opportunity. Suppliers such as Kindred AI are growing fast anyway, given the rise of eCommerce, and the accelerant of the pandemic - think of how much faster they could grow with Ocado’s cash, and engineering & marketing heft behind them.

This represents positive news for Ocado. Remember, last month, Norwegian warehouse automation technology provider AutoStore filed patent infringement lawsuits in the US and the UK against Ocado Group, alleging Ocado has infringed patents around its warehouse automation technology.

While this legal issue looks likely to rumble on, Ocado seems determined to push hard for growth regardless.