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Silicon Valley ag-tech company Zest Labs claims Walmart stole its proprietary "freshness management" technology used for reducing food waste. And if you know how much fresh food goes to waste, you know that the figures involved in the lawsuit are huge.
Zest claims a total of $85 billion worth of fresh food is wasted every year in the United States, and Walmart loses nearly $3 billion a year to "fresh food shrink." So if Walmart did steal Zest's Zest Fresh tech, it would be worth a lot -- $2 billion, according to a recent lawsuit. And you can see that lawsuit here:
Hacked or Stolen?
Zest claims it started working with Walmart in 2014 in order to address the retailer's fresh food shrink problem. "Over the course of a multi-year relationship," their lawsuit claims, "Zest Labs
engaged in significant discussions, presentations, demonstrations, and product trials with Walmart ... During this time, Zest Labs' proprietary information was shared with Walmart [and] Walmart employees gained direct access to Zest Labs' trade secrets and confidential information."
That all ended in 2017, when Walmart "abruptly terminated the trials ... and told Zest Labs it was no longer interested in Zest Fresh." And then:
Zest Labs was stunned when, just four months later, Walmart announced a system that looks, sounds, and functions very similarly to Zest Fresh, which Walmart publicly claimed had been "[d]eveloped in just six months by [Walmart's] own associates" and created via a "hackathon" involving Walmart engineers.
Walmart called its food-waste solution "Eden," and claims it has already saved the company $86 million. Zest extrapolated that out, estimating the company could save as much as $15 billion over ten years. "Walmart used its years of unfettered access to plaintiffs' trade secrets, proprietary information, and know-how to steal the Zest Fresh technology and misappropriate it for Walmart's own benefit," the complaint alleges, and Zest is asking for at least $2 billion for theft of its trade secrets, unfair competition, breach of contract, and other wrongdoing.
Here's the lawsuit, which has been redacted for public release: