Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Because a Tortoise Robot Was Delivering it

Meijer Markets piloting program to move rotisserie chickens around the middle mile.

The first OttOmate newsletter I published nearly three months ago was about the Tortoise delivery robot and how it could be used to make middle mile deliveries — deliveries between business locations such as warehouse to a store. I’ll be honest, when I wrote that I was not thinking Tortoise would be carrying banks of rotisserie chickens.

But, here we are.

Up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Meijer started piloting a program this week that uses Tortoise robots to shuttle between 24 - 40 cooked rotisserie chickens between two of its markets there. According to WZZM13 local news, the Tortoise bot makes the three mile trip twice a day, with it taking an hour for the robot to make the journey.

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Tortoise Co-Founder Dmitry Shevelenko tipped us off to this new pilot program via email this afternoon. We sent him back some follow up question looking for more detail (how long will the pilot last, are they adding more robots, etc.), and will update this post when we hear back.

While this particular poultry use case was unexpected, this type of store-to-store delivery is perfect for the Tortoise. The Tortoise is big, so it can haul 150 lbs worth of goods (that’s a lotta chicken!), and it’s remote controlled by humans, so stores don’t have to worry about trying to get an autonomous vehicle passed by local regulators and on public roads.

As I wrote back in September, Tortoise’s size and speed-to-market make it more of a Goldilocks delivery option than smaller cooler-sized delivery robots or larger Nuro-like pods. Tortoise can work for both consumers, getting their weekly groceries and businesses like Meijer wanting to move inventory between stores. As we’ve seen now in Michigan, the Tortoise platform can be outfitted to carry hot goods as well as packaged ones.

If this pilot works out, people of Grand Rapids will know exactly why all those chickens are crossing the road.