Fabric, which makes robot-powered fulfillment centers for grocery and other retail, announced yesterday that it has raised a $200 million Series C round of funding. TechCrunch was first to report the news saying existing investor Temasek led the new round which brings Fabric’s valuation to more than $1 billion.
Fabric’s hook is that it builds automated micro-fulfilment centers in small and odd-shaped real estate, like a parking garage. Using a system of tote boxes and rails, Fabric’s system can assemble grocery e-commerce orders quickly for delivery or curbside pickup.
Interest in automated fulfillment accelerated last year during the height of the pandemic as record amounts of people shopped online for groceries. While grocery e-commerce sales dropped from it’s height this past March, data from Brick Meets Click shows online grocery shopping remains sticky with consumers. In September, total U.S. onling grocery spending for curbside pickup or delivery was $6.4 billion.
In addition to sustained levels of online grocery sales, grocery retailers face an ongoing labor shortage. Automated fulfillment can take over pick and pack duties so stores can better re-distribute human workers to keeping store shelves stocked and doing more customer service.
This $200M tops off what’s been a pretty good year for Fabric. In January, Walmart announced Fabric would be one of its automated fulfillment providers, and in July delivery giant Instacart announced it would use Fabric to offer automated fulfillment to grocers.
Automated fulfillment on the whole is having a nice October. Earlier this month, Kroger announced that in addition to building out its big centralized automated fulfillment warehouses, it was also establishing smaller micro-fulfillment centers for speedy grocery delivery.
If you’re interested in automated grocery fulfillment. Check out the podcast I did with Grocery Dive’s Lead Editor Jeff Wells, who breaks the sector down, and talks about some of the challenges it faces.