About Us

Exploration & Testing Associates Limited is a privately owned company with staff that has over 50 years’ experience within the ground investigation sector.

We are a small, friendly team who currently operate nationwide from two offices. Head Office and our Materials Testing Laboratory is located in Bowburn, Durham, with the Ground Investigation team run out of Coventry, a central location which is easily accessible for much of the country. Our strategy is to establish a network of regional offices, offering ground investigation, on-site and laboratory materials testing, supported by geotechnical and geoenvironmental advice and reporting.

Our dedicated team are here to help clients achieve and meet their goals in the most efficient and cost-effective ways. We believe it is important to train and guide our staff to develop and maintain good relationships with clients, whilst providing a thorough and professional service.

Our Team

Ken Marsh

Ken Marsh


Ken Marsh is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers with 50 years’ experience in the fields of civil, structural, water and geotechnical engineering. Initially specialising in water engineering, he then progressed to project and ultimately business management. Experience gained on projects varied from urban motorway contracts to water supply, sewage and water treatment design and construction developed multidiscipline skills and an understanding of the need to seek innovation in design and operational efficiencies. This formed a strong basis for successfully undertaking the project management of many capital investment projects.

At the end of the 1980’s project management led to business management, initially with a Contracts Division and then as Managing Director of Exploration Associates, which was one of the major players in the United Kingdom ground investigation market and a supplier of construction related services. Changing companies in 1998, but not industry, he became Managing Director and latterly Executive Chairman of Ian Farmer Associates, which he led from a modest regional company to become a major national player in the UK ground investigation market. Until December 2017, he continued to play an active role in the company, responsible for business direction and strategy, the profitable management and national growth of the business and thereafter remained Chairman until November 2018.

After moving on from Ian Farmer Associates, he continues to play an active role in the industry by establishing a new company, Exploration & Testing Associates Limited; a vehicle to attract likeminded experienced practitioners seeking new challenges. Meanwhile, he has and continues to contribute to the development of the industry, starting and chairing a Working Group of the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS), from 2001 until 2011, before becoming Chairman of the Association from 2011 to 2013. He was Chairman of the Ground Forum from 2014 to 2016 and after becoming Treasurer of the AGS in 2018, he continues to play an active role in Ground Forum.


Tony Owen

Tony Owen


Tony is an environmental geologist with eighteen years’ experience in the ground investigation industry. Tony joined the industry in 2002 for work experience, prior to completing his final year at university where he was undertaking a Masters in Earth Science. He quickly became familiar with the practical aspects of ground investigation, carrying out gas and groundwater monitoring, soil and rock logging and the setup and supervision of investigations.

Tony had a clear interest in the geoenvironmental side of the industry from an early stage and with the growing significance of this sector, he eventually completed a part‐time MRes in Contaminated Land Management at Nottingham University whilst working full time. He regularly attends external training courses, meetings and conferences to supplement ongoing CPD requirements, and has sat on the AGS Contaminated Land Working Group.

Tony has managed sites with exploratory locations into the hundreds, employing multiple disciplines and techniques on sites including highways, railways, agricultural land, active MoD bases and large former heavy industry sites. These have been based all over the UK and therefore his knowledge of anticipated ground conditions is extensive.

Tony has significant experience in liaising with clients, both private and public sector, regulatory bodies and the co‐ordination of teams of subcontractors whilst working as or under a Principal Contractor to ensure the smooth running of the contract. He has experience in the application process for permissions, access requirements, environmental consents and management, with an excellent track record of communicating with landowners, neighbours and the wider community over environmental issues and managing the technical aspects of contracts.

At Exploration & Testing Associates Limited, Tony is responsible for developing the ground investigation aspect of the Company out of the Coventry office. Having spent much of his recent career focusing on staff welfare and the quality of the technical output, his new role offers the opportunity to provide a service that achieves all of our clients’ needs in terms of quality, budget and programme requirements, with regular contact and dedicated support from a professional and contented engineering team.


Nik O’Brien

Nik O’Brien

Laboratory Manager

Nik is a Laboratory Manager with a strong managerial background and wide range of experience gained over 15 years in the geotechnical and construction industries. The interpersonal skills and practical knowledge gained within both the laboratory and through several national site-based projects were ultimately used to run a busy UKAS accredited geotechnical testing laboratory.

As a Radiation Protection Supervisor, Nik oversaw the maintenance, calibration, security and handling of radioactive testing equipment and provided health and safety training workshops. This included working with the external Radiation Protection Advisor and holding annual meetings with the Environment Agency (EA), Office of Nuclear Regulations and the North East Counter Terrorism Department of the Police Service. Nik wrote and introduced a company site security plan detailing the security measures, physical checks and personnel background checks to follow to be fully compliant with the requirements of the North East Counter Terrorism Department. Furthermore, using knowledge of HSE & EA regulations, created a Radioactive Equipment Security Manual and Waste Management Matrix in compliance with auditing bodies and the Police Service.

Nik became the Aggregate Manager at a busy aggregate recycling centre in 2016. His broad understanding of health and safety procedures, accreditation, quality control and training, was used to form a highly competent staff base in an efficiently running yard. Building key relationships with existing and potential clients was an important part of the role, in providing and negotiating costs, turnaround times and solutions to problems as they arose.

As of 2019, Nik has returned to the ground investigation industry at Exploration & Testing Associates. Nik is tasked with developing the new laboratory from the ground up, specialising in site and laboratory construction material and concrete testing and is working towards achieving UKAS accreditation for the laboratory and on-site services.

As well as Nik’s interest in fitness, he is a keen photographer. As well as those shown here, Nik’s photos can be found on his stunning Instagram page @nikobrien85. It’s well worth a look.