Ocado acquiring 6 River Systems from Shopify

6 River Systems’ Chuck autonomous mobile robots. | Source: 6 River Systems

Ocado Group is acquiring autonomous mobile robot maker 6 River Systems from Shopify. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

6 River Systems develops the Chuck autonomous mobile robot (AMRs) for the logistics and non-grocery retail sectors. Based in Massachusetts, 6 River Systems was founded in 2015 by Rylan Hamilton, Jerome Dubois and Chris Cacioppo, who have deep knowledge of robotics, software and fulfillment operations. Dubois and Hamilton are former employees of Kiva Systems, the well-known AGV maker acquired by Amazon in 2012 for $775 million.

“We are delighted to welcome new colleagues to the Ocado family. 6 River Systems brings exciting new IP and possibilities to the wider Ocado technology estate, as well as valuable commercial and R&D expertise in non-grocery retail segments,” said James Matthews, CEO of Ocado Technology. “Chuck robots are currently deployed in over 100 warehouses worldwide, with more than 70 customers. We’re looking forward to supporting 6 River Systems to build on these and new relationships in the years to come.”

Shopify acquired 6 River Systems in September 2019 for $450 million. Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce giant, paid 60% in cash and 40% in shares for the deal. At the time, Shopify said the acquisition “is a critical step to accelerate its growth.”

One source told The Robot Report “the whole [6 River Systems] robotics team was axed and sold to Ocado.” The source continued, “Shopify sold 2/3 of Shopify Logistics to Flexport and 6RS to Ocado. The Shopify Logistics leadership was a disaster.”

This appears to be part of a larger round of layoffs at Shopify. It said on Thursday that it would let go 20% of its workforce in a second round of layoffs and sold its logistics arm to freight forwarder Flexport, sending its U.S.-listed shares up 16% in premarket trading. Shopify also reported better-than-expected results for the first quarter, as more merchants used its online tools and targeting services to attract customers tackling high inflation.

One source told The Robot Report that with this acquisition “Ocado can now go after non-grocery since they won the lawsuit against Autostore. [6 River Systems] will help them do more.”

This refers to the long patent infringement lawsuit Ocado recently won over AutoStore. AutoStore filed the suit in October 2020, claiming that Ocado’s automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) infringed on six of its patents. But the UK High Court ruled that AutoStore’s patents were invalid and that Ocado did not infringe upon them. Both AutoStore and Ocado operate automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) that operate on similar principles.

Editor’s Note: The story is developing and will be updated as needed.

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