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Investors back developer of self-calibrating pH sensor

ANB's co-founders, chief executive Nathan Lawrence and chief operating officer Kay McGuinness, with an ROV fitted with one of the company's pH sensors. Photo: ANB Sensors.
ANB's co-founders, chief executive Nathan Lawrence and chief operating officer Kay McGuinness, with an ROV fitted with one of the company's pH sensors. Photo: ANB Sensors.

A British tech start-up that develops self-calibrating pH sensors for use in aquaculture and other areas has raised $1.1 million (£887,000) in an oversubscribed investment round.

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The seed funding for Cambridge-based ANB Sensors comes from a co-investment by early-stage aquaculture venture capital firm Hatch Blue and industry investors represented by Namier Capital Partners.

ANB, which will take part in the fourth Hatch aquaculture programme starting in August, says in an article on its website that pH is the number one chemical measurement used today and is required across a vast amount of industries.

Little change in decades

It adds that despite its importance, pH sensing technology has changed very little in decades, and in many emergent fields it is simply not up to the task.

“The expensive and fragile glass electrodes need to be manually calibrated on a regular basis, and do not operate in low buffer media,” states ANB.

“This frequent manual calibration to maintain accuracy has a huge impact on maintenance costs, quantity that can deployed, whilst also having a significant environmental impact.”

ANB's S series pH sensor is a solid state sensor that is calibration free. Photo: ANB.
ANB's S series pH sensor is a solid state sensor that is calibration free. Photo: ANB.

In-situ calibration

The company’s own technology is based on a voltammetric electrochemical technique to verify the performance of the reference electrode and calibrate it, in-situ, when drift occurs.

ANB says it can either be retrofitted into the reference chamber of existing glass electrodes or combined with ANB Sensors’ patented solid-state pH sensor to form an all solid-state, robust, calibration free solution.

The company was set up with prize money awarded from the Wendy Schmitt Ocean Health XPrize Competition in 2014. It has secured more than £1.3m of grant funding to date including an H2020 EU grant worth €1.1m. The funding has enabled it to file nine patents, with more in the pipeline.

‘Perfect for aquaculture’

Applications for the sensors include oceanographic monitoring using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), large scale water networks and industrial plants, as well as aquaculture.

“Understanding the physical and chemical qualities of water is critical to successful aquaculture and ANB Sensors novel, calibration-free pH sensor is perfect for this sector,” said ANB chief operating officer Kay McGuinness.

“Its low-cost and ability to be networked throughout entire sites will provide multiple, maintenance free pH measurements for better knowledge and consequently better control of the water quality.”

Georg Baunach:
Georg Baunach: "Measuring pH is a real pain point and we are glad we can support this much-needed solution."

Big players

ANB says it is currently in discussions with a number of big players in the industry and is in the process of scaling and growing internationally, something the Hatch programme can help it achieve.

“This investment [from Hatch and Namier] will help deliver much needed new pH sensor technology to a multitude of sectors,” said ANB chief executive and co-founder Nathan Lawrence.

“Having completed our R&D phase, we are now ready to commercialise and the advice and expertise from our new investors will be key to achieving this.”

Hatch Blue managing partner Georg Baunach, said: “We are delighted to work with ANB Sensors. The team has done a tremendous job to develop this technology and we are excited about the multitude of its applications across many sectors. Measuring pH is a real pain point, not only in aquaculture, and we are glad we can support this much-needed solution.”

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