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Milford company grows

Airmar's acquisition allows it to expand into commercial fishing

Union Leader Correspondent

October 17. 2013 8:35PM

Stephen Boucher, founder and CEO of Airmar Technologies in Milford, shows U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, ultrasonic sensors that will be sold to the Chinese fishing fleet. (UNION LEADER FILE)

MILFORD — With a strong presence in recreational fishing, Airmar Technology Corp. is poised to make a splash in the commercial fishing industry through the acquisition of part of Marport Deep Sea Technologies.

The two companies have worked side by side for years creating ultrasonic sensors and software defined sonar technology used on commercial fishing trawlers, according to Airmar CEO Steve Boucher.

The sensors are affixed to fishing nets used for catching white fish like cod and pollock and measure a number of factors such as how many fish are in the net, how wide the opening is and whether the net is going through the water level or needs adjusting, Boucher said. The data is then sent through an acoustic modem to computer screens on the vessel so that crews can see what’s happening underwater.

With the data in front of them, captains of the fishing trawlers can speed up or slow down, adjust the slack on the cables that tow the nets and otherwise make adjustments.

“It’s important technology for the industry,” Boucher said. “They want to fish using as little fuel as can be expended. They go through tens of thousands of dollars in fuel per day.”

‘Partner of choice’

For eight years, Airmar has been making the ultrasonic sensors used in Marport’s product, but now manufacturing of the units will be controlled by Airmar. The companies will continue to work together on research and development of new products, and Marport’s service centers in Iceland, Spain and Washington state will continue to operate under the acquisition.

“The integration of our ultrasonic transducers and sensor technology coupled with Marport’s Software Defined Sonar will make us the partner of choice in the commercial fishing market today and well into the future,” said Matt Boucher, Airmar’s president and chief operating officer.

In the beginning, Boucher said, only a handful of new jobs will be added to the company’s roster of 220, most of whom work at Airmar’s Milford headquarters. Airmar will also be taking on about 30 Marport employees as well.

But Boucher said there’s an effort afoot by the company to eventually concentrate all of its manufacturing in Milford, sometime within the next decade or so.

The company, headquartered in Milford, will also have to expand its service division, said Boucher, because the delicate sensors take some serious abuse aboard the commercial fishing vessels and need to be repaired frequently.

“There’s also a 10 percent loss of equipment every year,” said Boucher, because of the harsh conditions the sensors are deployed under.

Heading into the commercial fishing industry is a good way for Airmar to expand its customer base and its product line, said Boucher. Airmar makes WeatherStation instruments and navigation equipment, including electronic compasses.

“We’ve been very strong in the recreational marine industry, maybe the strongest in the business,” said Boucher. “But we haven’t had a presence in the commercial fishing industry. This gets us there.”

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