Installing the latest technology salmon pens within challenging high-flow sea conditions has seen a New Zealand King Salmon (NZKS) Team Leader formally recognised by the seafood industry.
Justin Hough, who lives in the Marlborough Sounds, received the Our People award at the third annual Seafood Stars Awards presented at the Seafood Industry conference at Te Papa in Wellington recently.
Justin spent the last four years leading the construction of the Wavemaster pens, designed by Norwegian company AKVA and manufactured for high flow areas in the Outer Pelorus Sound. He also ensured all farming processes, including health and safety, changed to keep up with the new technology.
The pens are constructed of steel and clip together like marina pontoons. Because they are designed for high energy water movement, the pens move with the waves, unlike NZKS’s older solid structure farms, Justin says.
There are now 11 new pens on three sites: Waitara, Waihinau and Kopaua.
“As we put these pens in we ran into a lot of perceived problems around tides, mooring a structure and training staff to a system that was completely new,” he says.
“It was a new setup in terms of installing nets and lifting nets.”
Besides ensuring staff were able move around safely on the moving pens, Justin says there was also an increase in seal interaction on the new sites, leading to the modification of seal defences and more systems checks.
The ongoing project has been challenging and very enjoyable, Justin says. His team grew from seven to 17 in four years and he credits their hard work for making the builds a success.
“Any achievements that I have attained is the success of an excellent team. That’s why we were able to make the improvements; I only drove them.”
Although the newest farms are still being built, Justin says new generation farms have already become available – in fact, one is on its way now from Chile, which Justin will construct with his team when it arrives.
“That’s how the aquaculture industry moves – it’s changing constantly, and you can learn as much as you want to learn.”
The old farms were over-engineered, meaning they lasted longer than the technology they had to support, he says.
“The new style farms are engineered only just enough and have a lot shorter life span more suited to the advancements that the industry is making, and they’re also more cost-effective. The scale is getting bigger as well, so the technology behind it is getting bigger.”
Justin began working for NZKS 10 years ago as a shift worker in Pelorus Sound, then moved to Clay Point in Tory Channel as a shift supervisor on what was then a new farm.
Although he misses working directly with the fish as he once did, Justin says his background is in construction.
“That’s where my natural strength is, so it’s been fun just to be able to morph into that role.”