The Ocean Grown Abalone facility at Augusta Boat Harbour; The Ocean Grown Abalone facility at Augusta Boat Harbour;

Ocean Grown Abalone facility, Augusta, Western Australia

New abalone processing facility supports a sustainable export business

Under the sea at Flinders Bay, in the south-west corner of Western Australia, more than two million greenlip abalone are maturing to market size on artificial reefs.

For the past 20 years, Ocean Grown Abalone (OGA) has refined an aquaculture technique called ‘sea ranching’ – when hatchery bred juvenile abalone are placed on proprietary man-made reefs or 'abitats' and left in the ocean to thrive naturally.

Sea ranching abalone is a sustainable aquaculture that has zero-to-little negative impact on the environment. The sea ranch protects local fish species and organisms while supporting a diverse marine ecosystem.

OGA required a new processing facility to meet growing local and international demand for greenlip abalone, now at 300 tonnes per year. The brief was to design and engineer an adaptable processing plant that supports live abalone sales to local and global markets and production of frozen product lines for retail and export.

Arup collaborated with architects Cameron Chisholm Nicol from concept through to project completion to deliver a facility which met seafood handling standards and Australian export laws. 

Our engineering team supplied a construction-ready detailed design for the new facility, including hydraulic, structural, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering services, to support an increase in capacity and efficiency that underpins a sustainable export business.

We produced highly detailed designs and documentation to co-ordinate the multidisciplinary services to meet milestones and maximise work flow. The risk of mishaps and delays was reduced through digital analysis. Our role extended to construction administration which strengthened the sound delivery of the project.

Project Summary

10,000 ‘abitats’, increasing to 15,000

10kmlength of ‘abitats’

20years’research and development

We’re extremely happy with the finished Abalone Export Processing facility. Full credit to Cameron Chisholm Nicol for such an appealing building design, and the team at Arup for their attention to detail during the design phase and ongoing support throughout the project construction. ” Ian Ricciardi Executive Director, Ocean Grown Abalone

Image credits: Cameron Chisholm Nicol

Adapting engineering designs for local skilled contractors

Augusta Boat Harbour in Flinders Bay, with its full-scale amenities and infrastructure for marine industries and recreation, was an ideal site for the new processing facility.

Employing local divers and workers, OGA is a home-grown enterprise which is important to the local economy: having local skilled workers build the facility and complete surrounding earthworks was the appropriate solution. We adapted the building’s designs – removing the requirement for heavy machinery typically used by larger construction companies – enabling local contractors to take on the work.

Reducing risk through digital modelling

By road Augusta is 318 km from Perth-based Cameron Chisholm Nicol architects and Arup’s office. Distance was a potential risk if an irregularity needed immediate onsite review. From the outset it was evident that project coordination and due diligence was crucial to avoid delays.

We used a scanning web-based application to capture 3D data and images onsite; these were assembled to form an immersive 3D model depicting true dimensions. The 3D model showed layers of infrastructure within the job site, identifying critical placements of building elements. Our wider engineering team could drill down to explore fine grain detail and make decisions offsite. Using this application helped determine the project design, especially for connections to the underground seawater pipes, and reduced the number of site visits.

Our engineers mapped the whole design process through advanced BIM, coordinating mechanical, structural, electrical, civil and hydraulic engineering services. We incorporated ‘pen and paper’ drawings from a local sea water expert into our modelling to reduce errors and increase efficiency.

The site was built over reclaimed land, requiring careful coordination of the foundations and in-ground services by the multidisciplinary design team. Our application of 3D modelling using Revit for SMEP, AutoCAD Civil 3D and Solibri (to identify ‘clash’ points) was essential to minimise disruption to the geofabric over the rock infill. Our project coordination resulted in reduced instances and risk of puncturing the shallow geofabric membrane covering the rock platform below.

Navigating the balance in engineering between sustainable design in a marine environment, meeting regulatory requirements and delivering efficient processing facilities was crucial to the success of this project. ”

Kate Buckle, Arup Kate Buckle Former Senior Hydraulic and Fire Services Engineer
Ocean Grown Abalone divers Ocean Grown Abalone divers

Designing hydraulic systems to meet seafood handling regulations

When Augusta Boat Harbour was originally developed, seawater intake and outlet pipes were put in place. They commence in the ocean beyond the granite breakwaters and reach to OGA’s facility. Our hydraulic engineers designed appropriate systems to complement the existing pipes to ensure that access to the seawater, as well as its distribution and treatment, complied with regulations and environmental protection laws.

Handling live seafood requires a strictly maintained environment. Seawater is pumped into the facility into tanks of live abalone. After approximately three days purging, the abalone are processed for orders. The used seawater undergoes filtration and ozone sterilisation before returning to the sea through the outlet pipe.

To chill the seawater, the refrigeration plant uses salt water condensers, rather than conventional air-cooled units, saving power and reducing the facility’s carbon footprint.

This type of facility hasn’t been done before and so it was only a success because of the fantastic collaborative effort of the design, construction and client team working as one with a shared purpose. ”

Steve Adam Steve Adam Building Services Leader, WA

The facility also uses a large volume of fresh water for cleaning and maintenance.  We designed a pressure reduction in the system to mitigate water leaks, contributing to the secure delivery of food grade drinking water to the facility.

Because marine structures are vulnerable to the corrosive elements of coastal environments, including sea water, we chose durable materials that offer protection against environmental pollution to safeguard the facility’s infrastructure.

Our hydraulic engineering and salt water systems were modelled in BIM to coordinate the infrastructure with other disciplines. A total design approach created a cohesive working process.