December 13, 2012
Using seed funding from the Frank McKenna Technology Fund, Cube Automation and Sunny Corner Enterprises of northern New Brunswick have formed a joint venture to develop remote monitoring and automation applications for the mining industry.
Sunny Corner, based in Miramichi, and Cube Automation of Tracadie will develop technology that will allow mining companies to monitor their machinery in remote locations, often operating in extreme climates.
The device will monitor such aspects of drilling as the torque, power and performance. It will relay the information by satellite to a centralized office. The system will then analyze the data so the company can tell how to get greater efficiency out of the drill.
The yet-to-be-named joint venture hopes to eventually develop a solution that will allow the centralized office to send commands to the remote drill, allowing some tasks to be done at head office.
“Relaying the message through a satellite is fairly simple,” said Thor Olesen, the manager of the McKenna fund.
“What we’re more concerned about is the functionality in extreme conditions, particularly of the drill.”
Major Drilling Group International Inc., a global drilling company based in Moncton, will be the first to adopt the technology, using it in one drill as a test and then rolling it out to six to 10 sites.
While Sunny Corner is an expert in fabrication, Cube Automation has already developed remote applications that relay information in resource industries from the field to centralized office.
“This technology was developed in the past five years with funding from different levels of government, and we now sell it to industries, including the seafood industry and the peat moss industry,” Roch Chiasson, general manager of Cube Automation, said in an interview.
Given that the company has worked in the resource industry, he said Cube Automation’s technology has been proven to work in extreme conditions, from hot, humid, boiler rooms to freezing winter conditions in northern New Brunswick. He believes it will adapt well to the conditions of remote mining sites.
Olesen declined to say how much the McKenna fund is investing in what is its first investment. He did say the partners will tap other sources of funding, such as government programs, and the total funds needed to develop the prototype will be about $700,000.
McKenna, the former premier of New Brunswick and current deputy chairman of TD Bank Group, donated $1 million last year to the “Frank Fund,” as it’s known, to back innovation in the Miramichi region. The fund is held by University of New Brunswick and managed by the Wallace McCain Institute of Fredericton.
Olesen, investment fund manager at the institute, said he has been mentoring about six companies in the past year to get them ready for investment. He expects the fund will make one or two more funding announcements in January or February.