Orono Spectral Solutions of Bangor expects to grow quickly over the next five years. Both U.S. and Canadian regulators have approved its sampling product (small bottle with OSS label shown above inside machine that processes the sample) to test the amount of water in anhydrous ammonia, assuring it is safe to transport to large farms, which use the ammonia as fertilizer. Credit: Courtesy of Orono Spectral Solutions

A Bangor company is planning to increase the size of its staff and ramp up to $100 million in sales over the next five years after unlocking access to Canadian and other international markets, its chief executive officer said.

Orono Spectral Solutions Inc. makes a test device and method to quickly identify small amounts of chemicals or water in products.

The company initially is focusing its small, bottle-like extraction device on makers of anhydrous ammonia, which is used by large farms as fertilizer. Knowing the amount of water in the ammonia is important for transporting it safely. Ammonia can be explosive with the incorrect amount of water in it.

Transport Canada, a Canadian regulator, recently approved the device and method for use by ammonia manufacturers in Canada. The U.S. Department of Transportation approved its use in the United States last September.

Since the DOT approval, Orono Spectral said it has filled orders to customers in the United States, France, The Netherlands and South Africa. The approval in Canada opens up a large cross-border market.

“Expanding the geographical scope of use in North America is a key milestone in a product that frequently is transported across borders,” Dean Smith, the company’s vice president of engineering, said in a statement. Smith, a University of Maine graduate, also owns the company.

With access to both U.S. and Canadian manufacturers, Orono Spectral expects to increase sales over the next five years to top $100 million, and grow its staff to 15 people from its current number of three.

“They are addressing a $1 billion-plus market,” said John Burns, managing director of the Maine Venture Fund, which first invested in the company in 2014. “They believe they can build up to $100 million in sales based on the products they have, the vertical markets those products serve and their expansion into international markets like Canada.” Neither Burns nor the company would reveal current sales.

The company claims its test method is faster and uses a smaller sample than current testing techniques.

Orono Spectral, founded in 2004, was spun out of research at the University of Maine. Until 2015 it made products to identify hazardous chemicals such as warfare agents or explosives for U.S. Department of Defense.

When that contract ended, it refocused to sell to private industry outside of the state. Large ammonia makers are located in the midwest and Canada. With the switch to new customers, the company is aiming to grow its business by expanding its markets and its product lines, for example, with tests for the opioid fentanyl and hazardous chemicals.

The company is in the process of raising about $600,000 in the form of debt that can be later be converted into cash or common stock, said Roland Sirous, CEO of Orono Spectral. Among its investors to date are the Maine Venture Fund, individual donors and the Bangor Angel Fund.

“Our investment in Orono Spectral has enabled a technology born out of the University of Maine to be commercialized into a breakthrough product that will make our roads and factories safer, all driven by an innovative company with great growth potential located in Bangor,” said Burns.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...