USA – ZX Ventures, a venture capital arm of AB InBev has invested in Pensa Systems, a US developer of a new retail inventory visibility system as part of US$5 million funding round.

Patrick O’Riordan, vice president of explore at ZX Ventures, said that Pensa’s approach to Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) inventories is a unique and sustainable solution.

“Out-of-stock products are a significant challenge for CPG companies and retail partners, with hundreds of millions of dollars in potential sales impact.

While we’ve explored various solutions to the problem, Pensa’s approach is truly novel.

Its unique combination of expertise and technology tools – including scalable AI and advanced computer vision – provides an opportunity to make both timely and significant impacts to inventory visibility throughout the industry,” he said.

Pensa Systems says the new system is “broadly scalable” which automatically and systematically tracks in-store inventory, using advanced computer vision, patent-pending artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous drones to see and understand what is on store shelves.

Richard Schwartz, president and CEO of Pensa Systems, said that the lack of inventory visibility has for a long time been a challenge to manufacturers and retailers, but with the new the problem can now be minimised.

“Retailers and manufacturers go blind staring at products on the shelf to see what is missing or has been misplaced.

Advanced artificial intelligence can borrow the best of how people perceive shelf conditions and automate it at scale to continuously read out what is on a shelf at any point in time,” Schwartz explained.

According to Pensa, this unique approach will help brands and retailers minimise stock-outs, facilitate optimal product planning and in-turn increase earnings.

Ed Cluss, a partner of Pensa at Signia Venture Partners, who is also set to join Pensa’s board of directors, said that the start-up undertaking an inventory research with AI and drones on the feasibility.

“Pensa is doing breakthrough work with and drones, bringing data to bear on a significant and costly problem for retail – the lack of consistent on-shelf inventory visibility.

Data and technology are critical to retail’s future, and we are excited to help Pensa bring their vision to reality,” said Ed Cluss.

More investments will be done to accelerate store trials with large retailers and consumer packaged goods brands in North America and abroad.

The funding round comes to the tune of US$2.2 million in seed investment announced in 2018, as well as the completion of multiple successful live trials with consumer brands and retailers, including AB InBev.