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Auckland robotics company rounds off 'turbulent' year with megadeal

Auckland robotics company rounds off 'turbulent' year with megadeal
It's been a turbulent year for Albany-based CleanFlow Systems; just after the opening of its new R&D facility, cofounder and chief technical officer Geoff Logan was killed in a plane crash off Orewa Beach in March. But now the high-tech firm has signed a multi-million dollar deal that will see it acquired by US-based RedZone Robotics.

Cofounders Geoff Logan and Trevor Logan and product manager Phil Anderson at the opening of their new research and development facility in Albany.Cofounders Geoff Logan and Trevor Logan and product manager Phil Anderson at the opening of their new research and development facility in Albany

It's been a turbulent year for Albany-based CleanFlow Systems; just after the opening of its new R&D facility, cofounder and chief technical officer Geoff Logan was killed in a plane crash off Orewa Beach in March. But now the high-tech firm has signed a multi-million dollar deal that will see it acquired by US-based RedZone Robotics.

CleanFlow designs and manufactures robotic devices that assess damage to underground pipes, including the FlyEye profiler, and RedZone Robotics is the only other company in the world with a similar product.

CleanFlow chief executive Trevor Logan said the deal was driven by his brother's vision – although he had "specifically banned him from starting on the Flyeye project" eight years ago, it turned out to be the key to their success.

"Now it is the leading inspection tool bar none in our industry and the reason for the successful sale of the company.”

The device travels down pipes taking photographs and 360-degree laser readings to pinpoint wall loss, cracks, holes and blockages. The information it collects is analysed using software to build a digital image showing the pipe’s exact condition.

It can also be adapted for use in flooded pipes taking readings by sonar and was recently used in Christchurch to help get the city’s water systems back up and running.

RedZone chief executive Eric Close said the combined entity would reach customers in 35 countries.

"Together we can provide all of the tools required for our customers to make sense of the world’s abundant wastewater collection systems, which are all too frequently out of sight and out of mind. The challenge here is to put the much needed information in the hands of wastewater managers so they can proactively manage their sewer infrastructure."

According to Logan, both companies have a history of developing innovative products.

“Independently each company is respected in the industry, but our combined solutions will enable us to be a truly global leader with the ability to serve clients of every size."

The company will stay in New Zealand and Logan will join RedZone’s board of directors. CleanFlow's 12 employees, nine of whom are Massey University graduates, will continue working on product development.

“This deal is fantastic news for us. We have had a very turbulent year."

CleanFlow grew out of Massey University’s ecentre, which Logan approached in 2001 with the idea.

“The support we received from being based at the ecentre was critical in getting through the first tough years," he said.

Steve Corbett, chief executive of ecentre, described CleanFlow’s story as “inspirational”.

“CleanFlow has evolved from two entrepreneurs whose early prototypes were test driven for days in the water-filled gutters of ecentre to test their water resistance, to a global company exporting to 36 countries.

“This latest move is another endorsement of the shining talent of Kiwis on the global stage.”

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