Fluid Imaging Technologies was founded in 1999 as a spinoff from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in West Boothbay Harbor, ME. The original FlowCAM® was developed at Bigelow for studying plankton in ocean water. An extremely novel concept, the FlowCAM was designed to combine the benefits of a flow cytometer and a microscope in a single instrument. Marine Biologists from around the world visited the lab and were exposed to the FlowCAM. Many of these scientists found the instrument to be so useful for their research that they expressed interest in acquiring one for their own lab. At this point, Dr. Chris Sieracki, one of the co-developers of the original FlowCAM, formed Fluid Imaging Technologies to manufacture instruments for other researchers.
During the initial 5 years of the company's history, the FlowCAM was sold exclusively to the oceanographic research community. Towards the end of this period, several non-oceanographic customers evaluated the FlowCAM for their particle analysis applications, and eventually purchased instruments. These early "industrial" customers included a flavors and fragrances manufacturer and a petrochemical company. Recognizing the potential of the FlowCAM to address these other "industrial" applications, the company expanded and began marketing to the industrial sector while continuing to sell to the core oceanographic customers. The FlowCAM also began to see use in other aquatic applications, such as limnology (the study of inland waters) at this time.
During the second 5 years of the company's history, the growth became more rapid in both the aquatic and industrial parts of the business. As a result, the company outgrew its modest facility outside of Boothbay and moved to a brand new facility located in Yarmouth, ME (just outside of Portland). The new facility had room to keep up with the projected growth of the company. At the same time, the company expanded dramatically in international sales, leading up to Fluid Imaging being named the US Small Business Administration's (SBA) small business Exporter of the Year in 2008, and subsequently Exporter of the Year 2010 by the Maine International Trade Center.