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Could Robotic Storefronts Be the New Face of the Grocery Industry?

Imagine, if you will, a small food market with about 200 items, including the staples: milk, fresh produce, eggs, bread and toiletries. Instead of cashiers, stock personnel and managers, however, shoppers order via a screen and all products are delivered to a pick up window via robotics, and you pay for your groceries via an electronic point-of-sale device.

This may sound like some sort of sci-fi dystopia where humans rely on robots to get their food, but the reality is more akin to a giant vending machine. And Eat Greater Des Moines, a local non-profit focused on enhancing the local food scene in central Iowa, sees it as an avenue for improving access to healthy food and necessities in a neighborhood that doesn’t have enough. The organization plans to approach the city’s Plan and Zoning Commission in July to bring a 26-square-foot automated store to the Polk County Health Department parking lot.

Created by Oasis24seven, the automated shop will be bulletproof with surveillance cameras to protect its stock. Ok, so maybe that sounds a bit dystopian, but the real benefit lies in the fact that the shop can provide fresh produce and foods to a historically underserved community without needing to pay employees to watch over the store.

Zoning commission members have been excited, according to Aubrey Alvarez, head of Eat Greater Des Moines: “I think a lot of people are excited to see it up and running, and to see if it’s going to work.” She also intends to pass the project along to a local grocery business if the concept proves successful.

Supermarkets have already adopted self-payment kiosks, and as we’ve seen in the past year, from robotic farming to drone-assisted agriculture, the food industry is becoming more and more embroiled in emerging technology. Do you think a project like this could lead to a revolution around the country?