Albertsons Cos., Boise, Idaho, partnered with Takeoff Technologies, Boston, Mass., to pilot the micro-fulfillment center concept and Takeoff’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, making it what is said to be the first national grocer to implement an automated e-commerce fulfillment solution.

“Investing in e-commerce directly benefits our customers, and anything that we can do to simplify their grocery shopping experience to save valuable time is a win,” says Narayan Iyengar, senior vice president, digital and e-commerce at Albertsons. “While our partnership with Takeoff Technologies will streamline e-commerce fulfillment and improve our efficiencies, we’re excited that Takeoff’s AI solution will make it even easier for customers to get their groceries how and when they want. This is a major step in our commitment to being a customer-centric player in the digital food and wellness ecosystem.”

Takeoff’s “hyper-local” automated fulfillment center will be piloted in an existing store, and the machine will be replenished daily. A customer will enter an order using the existing e-commerce interface, and the order will be delivered to the automated system. Takeoff will then take over the fulfillment process, using AI-enabled technology and a system of totes and conveyors to deliver the items to an Albertsons employee, who will prepare the order for the customer.

Takeoff’s model is structured to use the existing supply chain and store footprint, and offers flexibility in picking various types of products.

“Takeoff is a win-win for grocers and consumers across the board,” says Max Pedro, co-founder and president of Takeoff. “Our e-grocery automation is a turnkey solution that uses artificial intelligence to unlock ultimate convenience for shoppers without need of charging fees or a price premium.”