Paragould's Fidus Global Charts Course With State Air Quality Project

Paragould's Fidus Global Charts Course With State Air Quality Project
Aarron Hale (Fidus Global)

It was a rough year to be in business, let alone start one.

But rather than be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, controls engineering firm Fidus Global LLC of Paragould is leaning into the aftermath as it completes its first year of operation. The company is partnering with AI and analytics firm mCloud Technologies Corp., of Canada, to provide indoor air quality systems for buildings operated by the state of Arkansas.

"Right now I guess you would say that people are really focused on air quality, and the mCloud guys said they had a really good product for this," Fidus Global President Aarron Hale said.

The airborne nature of the coronavirus has left state and local governments like Arkansas seeking to improve indoor air safety in government properties, including schools, office buildings and other state-run facilities. By July, the first of the buildings is expected to be connected and online, using Fidus Global software and mCloud's AssetCare platform in HVAC systems.

"We are eager to get started on our first of what we expect to be many government-operated properties here in Arkansas," Hale said. "The state government intends to have the best indoor air quality in the country through the deployment of advanced technologies including AssetCare."

Currently at six employees, Fidus Global was formed in Paragould, Hale's hometown, with a vision of building "open architecture" software for e-commerce. A U.S. Navy veteran whose resume includes Federal Express, Amazon and Walmart Inc., Hale said that too often companies run into black-box, proprietary software that puts them at the mercy of experts, sometimes at great expense, when there are problems or changes are needed. 

"I was an end user for most of my career and I always got fired up because I couldn't change something immediately," Hale said. "We would have to call black-box folks and they'd be like ‘That's 20 grand.' " 

By making systems easier to fix and tweak at the user level — by an on-site electrician or controls expert versus calling a database software expert — supply chains should see fewer costly disruptions. 

"Essentially we just want to move the warehouse control system and the warehouse execution system to make it an open, simple, low-cost option for everybody," Hale said. "And it's really going to disrupt this market because these large hardware companies [currently] can essentially hold the even larger retail companies hostage."

Hale spent four years in avionics with the Navy. At Federal Express he developed and maintained warehouse control systems (WCS). During four years at Amazon, he engineered supply chain fulfillment automation, robotics and WCS integration solutions.

In a year with Walmart, Hale managed the company's next-generation, e-commerce WCS implementation, including material handling equipment, conveyor design, engineering contracting, purchasing, reliability, maintenance and automation controls.

He formed the Fidus Global core team — composed of engineers with similar, major corporate experience — a year ago and described 2020 as mostly a development year. 

"It was a little bit of a rough year," he said. "We got to do a robot upgrade there in Little Rock at De Wafelbakkers. They seem like they did okay during the pandemic. Everybody's got to eat. Pancakes right?"

While Fidus Global is in business to succeed, Hale is somewhat altruistic about the Arkansas HVAC project. He said the upgrades should help fight pathogens beyond those that caused the coronavirus, improve air quality and system sustainability and hopefully lower the numbers of sick days taken. 

"One thing with the state, I just want Arkansas to lead. So I think it would be pretty nice," he said.

In the future, Hale said he hopes to bring Fidus Global's logistics experience to bear on an inevitable upgrade to the U.S. Postal Service systems and help it avoid some of the issues larger retailers have faced. 

"One thing that we told one of our customers recently was ‘Don't look at us as a startup. Look at us as an MLB expansion team,' " Hale said. "We're going to the playoffs."