In August, an Israeli pet food and pet supplies retailer, NowPet, launched Tel Aviv’s first unmanned pet supplies store. This was done in collaboration with Cyb-Org Auto Shop Ltd., an Israeli technology-intensive retail and wholesale management company, established in 2016.

The first store, in the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv, operates using Cyb-Org’s systems in a 40-square-meter space, with 60 different products available. It provides major pet food brands, such as Acana and Whiskas (currently in dry form only), with other products, such as leashes and toys, to join soon.

Automation could help pet food retailers compete

Operating against stiff competition from e-commerce giants like Amazon, retail outlets have been struggling to lower costs and offset thinning profit margins. Although automation technologies have been around for many years, Cyb-Org CEO Erez Gur believes automation has been too complicated to maintain and only moves the cost burden from one category to another.

“Retailers looking to get into automation as a means to reduce costs might fire four cashiers, but now they have to have eight security guards, and in the back office, there might be more persons who are looking at cameras and fixing algorithms,” Gur explains. “In our solution, there really is zero manpower involved.”

Gur is a pet food retailer himself as the founder of Petbuy, a pet food chain in Israel. He cites his own struggles with the changing pet food market dynamics as the reason to develop Cyb-Org, alongside his company’s Chief Scientist, Ofer Levi. Gur has sold most of his shares in Petbuy since managing Cyb-Org.

Pet owner experience and cost were important factors

“The main issue has been that developers usually do not come from retail fields,” Gur points out. “As a very experienced retailer, I know all the challenges that retailers deal with, which is why I developed this solution.”

The system is designed to identify customers through fingerprinting and facial recognition. When a product is removed from a smart shelf, built-in weighing scales and machine vision calculate the item removed and add it to the customers’ bills. This is the strength of Cyb-Org’s proprietary hardware and software that can save retailers more money compared to other such brands, Gur claims.

“NowPet is a chain, and they wanted our solution,” Gur elaborates. “They were our first clients, because among pet retailers the cost of workers in very high. You have to have a seller, a buyer and a delivery person, which gets very expensive. In our pet stores, we undertake automated inventory analysis, manage logistics to lower expenses and let the customer enjoy a retail experience that is cost-effective and hassle-free.”

More unmanned pet supplies stores expected soon

Gur’s retail technology solutions have found a foothold in the Israeli pet food and supplies market, with NowPet looking to invest in an additional 20 stores and, eventually, have 100 such stores across Israel. These stores will be able to feature up to 300 different pet food products.

The solution is also flexible and adaptable to other retail outlets. Currently Cyb-Org is in the process of producing outlet sizes reaching up to 200 square meters, with up to 800 different products available in a single location. Specifically, Cyb-Org has also received orders from farming and sports goods retailers as well, with production of their retail spaces taking place in Shenzhen, China.