Toronto-based Daily Blends has announced an all-equity $2.7 million CAD ($2 million USD) pre-seed funding round and a partnership with Ontario’s public transit agency to expand its smart vending machine technology to more locations.

The round closed in December and was co-led by the Hustle Fund and 2048 Ventures, with participation from Backbone Angels, Looking Glass Capital, and other undisclosed, “mission-aligned investors,” a spokesperson for Daily Blends told BetaKit.

Daily Blends also signed a multi-year partnership with Metrolinx, which operates GO Transit, Presto, and UP Express. Daily Blends said this financing will accelerate its plan to deploy its AI-powered smart vending machines across Metrolinx’s integrated transit network, starting with Union Station.

Daily Blends has about 10 vending machines, with the brand being on track to deploy 80 units by the end of 2023.

Founded by sisters Shriya Gupta and Purva Gupta in 2020, Daily Blends aims to provide healthy and affordable food in a “smarter way.” It does this through its data-centric retail platform, which can generate insights on accurate demand forecasts and more, while optimizing delivery schedules and minimizing out of stock products.

Daily Blends also takes a sustainability approach: on the “Best By” date, the company claims the food item is donated to a local NGO or community partner, such as Second Harvest.

“The combination of powerful data insights and plug-and-play smart vending machines, further combined with an omnichannel experience, helps us address new-age, evolving consumer needs while keeping our model agile and removing the heavy capital and labor costs associated with traditional retail formats,” said Shriya.

Daily Blends’ partnership with Metrolinx will see its healthy food vending machines available for commuters at certain transit locations.. In addition to its deal with Metrolinx, Daily Blends said it also has smart vending machines available at several hospitals, factories, and the University of Toronto.

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The Toronto-based startup is part of a growing “unattended retail” industry that has varied in implementations to serve the needs of different communities, including vending machines that dispense items beyond food. Uses cases have differed from dispensing surgical face masks during the peak of COVID-19 restrictions, to whole boxes of pizza.

SMRT1, a Nelson, BC-based startup, raised almost half a million dollars through its seed round crowdfunding campaign in 2021, to expand its smart dispensing technology. Unlike Daily Blends’ vending machines, SMRT1’s device can be used as a freestanding or mounted kiosk, connected onto the front of an existing vending machine.

Daily Blends told Retail Insider that it has about 10 vending machines, with the brand being on track to deploy 80 units by the end of 2023. The company added that it plans to “expand aggressively” along the west coast in the United States later this year, starting with California.

Featured image courtesy Daily Blends.

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