Bill Fraser, left, and John Bowles.

Bill Fraser, left, and John Bowles.

Inversa Systems, whose technology assesses the soundness of physical structures, has signed a five-year contract worth as much as $2.5 million to inspect culverts in New Brunswick.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced the contract with the Fredericton engineering company, which will result in the inspection of corrugated metal pipes throughout the province without digging them up.

“Culverts are an essential part of our transportation network in New Brunswick,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser in a statement. “This technology allows us to inspect culverts in the ground, without the expense of digging them up, not to mention the inconvenience for motorists.”

The Fredericton company began in 2005, growing out of PhD research by founder Jake Arsenault. It got its initial push by winning a New Brunswick Innovation Foundation student entrepreneurship contest – a forerunner of the Breakthru competition.

Arsenault and Current CEO John Bowles developed a diagnostic imaging system that probes a structure while in-service to detect whether there has been erosion, corrosion or any other defect. The system uses backscattered radiation, which is similar to an x-ray, except the beams reflect back from the subject rather than pass through it. That means the Inversa system can be used from the surface of massive objects.

In the case of the contract with New Brunswick, the company can assess buried structures without digging them up for a visual inspection.

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The provincial transportation and infrastructure department has been exploring the use of the company’s technology through a pilot assessment of 15 culverts. It has now formalized the relationship with a five-year contract for the assessment of 250 culverts at a maximum cost of $500,000 per year.

“This program will position the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure as a leader in asset management of buried infrastructure,” said Bowles in the statement. “We look forward to replicating this model across North America, which will create jobs and more economic growth right here in New Brunswick.”

Inversa has several verticals in its business offering, and the main two are civil infrastructure and oil and gas. Most of the company’s announcements in the past few years have been in the civil infrastructure category. In 2016, for example, Inversa announced partnerships with Lakeland, Fla.-based soil stabilization and infrastructure rehabilitation Ground Works Services, and Kansas City, Mo.-based McIntire Management Group, a manufacture rep.

Inversa has received venture capital investment from Technology Venture Corp. of Moncton, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The most recent investments disclosed to the public were two NBIF rounds since April 2015 totaling $475,000.

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