Ocado has led a £7m seed round for UK robotics firm Karakuri, its first investment in a tech startup.
Other backers in the round included Hoxton Ventures, Firstminute Capital and Taylor Brothers.
The online supermarket chain will use Karakuri's technology to expand its grocery offering after a fire devastated one of its automated warehouses. It expects to take delivery of the startup's first amchines in late 2019.
Read more: Andover fire burns revenue at Ocado
Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner said: “Our investment in Karakuri, potentially a game-changer in the preparation of food-to-go, gives us the opportunity to bring the best innovation to the benefit of our own customers as well as our partners.”
A graduate of the Founders Factory startup incubator, Karakuri said it will use the seed funding to further develop its technology, strengthen its intellectual property base and expand its team for global growth.
Karakuri chief executive and co-founder Barney Wragg explained: “Consumer eating habits in and out of the home are changing rapidly as demand increases for healthier options that match specific dietary requirements. This growth in menu personalisation is putting huge pressure on restaurants, cafes and other food retailers.
“Our systems prepare personalised meals onsite in real time to the exact requirements of each customer. At the same time, our technology aims to minimise food waste, packaging and distribution costs and all of the associated environmental impact.”