News Highlights: ROGER TAYLOR: Demand for high-tech ceramic sensor Technology to expand in Dartmouth | Local business | Company
Niru Somayajula has identified an additional 10,000 square foot space in Burnside Park in Dartmouth, which will allow her to expand her business in Nova Scotia.
The president and CEO of Sensor Technology Ltd., headquartered in Collingwood, Ont., But with assembly operations at Dartmouth’s Center for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Somayajula says she had plans to quadruple the size of her business when she and two business partners acquired the company in 2011.
Sensor TechnologyIt’s actually rooted in the commercial pottery trade, “if you can believe it,” she said in an interview.
“It was called Blue Mountain Pottery and wanted to diversify its offering. So in 1983 the company hired my father, Eswar Prasad, who had a PhD in physics and a specialization in something like piezoelectric ceramics. “
The subsidiary that Prasad ran was called Blue Mountain High Tech Inc. Its specialty, making piezoelectric ceramics, is used in acoustic equipment such as sonar and underwater sensors, and is still one of Sensor Technology’s main product lines.
“It was once a big company with about 700 people making ducks and ashtrays and things like that,” said Somayajula.
“It had a very specific teal-green-blue color that is quite iconic all over the world.”
Ultimately, the pottery side of the business failed in 1985, but her father, along with some partners, took over the engineering division.
“They had a number of government contracts from the US to develop the materials needed for piezoelectric ceramics. (The US military) wanted more supply sources because the sonar base is all made of these ceramics, ”she said.
“That’s kind of how Sensor Technology was born, of grants from the Office of Naval Research. “
Somayajula’s mother, Shashi Prasad, has a “very deep financial background” and served as the company’s Chief Financial Officer for many years.
So they were a beautiful couple; he was technical and she was very practical. “
They decided to retire and the company was readied for sale. Somayajula was hired as an interim manager in preparation for a major oil company to complete the takeover, but the deal backfired.
The company fell to her and two partners. They bought out her parents in 2011.
“We bought the company from them when I was about seven months pregnant with the first (child). So it was a perfect transition plan except. . . I was very pregnant when I took over a business. But they became grandparents right away, so that helped them focus back on retirement.
“They were so helpful in the early days of my kids being born and I couldn’t have made the great career and child rearing without some kind of army of support, actually a village.”
The company employs approximately 40 people, approximately 30 in Collingwood and approximately 10 in Dartmouth.
“I started with just an agency at (the Center for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship) in Dartmouth, just to have a small presence there,” said Somayajula.
“I planned to fly in every six weeks for meetings and sort of develop a better customer base in Nova Scotia and beyond. . . transformed into a sales office. “
Shortly afterwards she was given some production space at COVE.
“We make the piezoelectric ceramic in Collingwood and that probably will never change,” she said.
“But then we turn the piezoelectric ceramic into acoustic sensors, and that entire product line has moved to Nova Scotia.”
Remote controlled unmanned vehicles and sensors going on an underwater vehicle, the designers need to be very aware of the weight and drag, and the lightweight piezoelectric ceramic has an advantage.
“Our plan is to make a whole range of products to support the driverless vehicles,” said Somayajula.
The expansion of the business in Dartmouth is slowly building, and that’s part of what a recently announced $ 393,367 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency will be used to finance equipment purchases.
While the company is looking for new space in Burnside, Somayajula, Sensor said Technology just started on Monday with the construction of a mezzanine in COVE’s premises to provide some better rooms with temperature and humidity control for some of the processes used in the installation of acoustic equipment.
“I actually live in both places,” said Somayajula.
“I have a house in Dartmouth and the house in Collingwood, and I spend a week in each. . . . I’m on a plane every Sunday trying to keep things going in the middle of COVID.
‘I’m like the only person I know who still gets on a plane these days, but there’s so much going on in Nova Scotia. That team, while great, they are quite new to the organization so they need help and I am the only one in the company willing to travel these days. “
She said she’s running a modified quarantine because of some of the work we do in the defense industry, we’re considered essential, so I can go to the office, but that’s it. I am expected to do a route straight to the office and back. “
Somayajula said she is “trying to run the factory in Nova Scotia, and we’re expanding at the same time. It’s a lot of fun. “
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