Zest Labs has sued Walmart, asserting the retailer stole its technology. ( File Photo )

Zest Labs has filed a complaint against Walmart for $2 billion, alleging the retailer stole its technology after an extended relationship.

Zest works with companies to gather supply chain data and identify changes to improve the shelf life of fresh produce, reducing shrink. Costco and Hy-Vee are among the retailers that have worked with Zest in the last year.

According to the lawsuit, Walmart worked with Zest Labs between 2014 and 2017, including multiple pilots on which Zest says it spent millions of dollars.

Much of the description of Zest’s ongoing dialogue with Walmart is redacted from the public court filing, but the company indicates that Walmart made its announcement about its Eden Fresh program four months after Walmart told Zest it was not interested in its technology and planned to develop its own system.

In a news release, Walmart described Eden Fresh as the result of a “hackathon” among its engineers.

“In reality, 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,” Zest Labs contends in the lawsuit.

The retailer provided the following response regarding the lawsuit.

“Walmart is an intellectual property owner and respects the intellectual property rights of others,” the company said in a statement. “We take this issue seriously and once we are served with the complaint, we will respond appropriately with the court.”