Nick Scimone is the maintenance technician/systems engineer for US Abalone, an aquaculture facility in Davenport, California that produces farm-raised abalone, which it ships live to seafood wholesalers worldwide. At its ocean-front facility just north of Santa Cruz, the company spawns mature abalone and raises young through the larval, nursery, and juvenile stages. The facility currently operates more than 2,500 tanks and it is Scimone’s responsibility to maintain those tanks and all related systems.
Every day Scimone walks through the facility to check for potential problems. He checks the air blowers, which aerate the water in the tanks. He checks the intake pump, which brings water from the ocean to a storage tank, and the transfer pumps, which then distribute the water among the tanks. He’s responsible for keeping the ocean intake screens clean, for repairing brackets and any other structural elements that support the air and water systems, for maintaining adequate back-up supplies so that the facility can fix any key components immediately, and for maintaining the tanks themselves. “A sea water environment is a tough one,” he explains. “Corrosion, for example, is an ongoing concern.”
"It’s a big job – and an important one for an aquaculture facility"
After high school Scimone worked in construction for eight years, followed by a stint at a local plant where he developed good mechanical skills, particularly with pump systems. That background and skill set got him hired to help build tanks at US Abalone four years ago. From there, his enthusiasm, willingness to learn more about the systems (mainly through his own efforts), and ability to handle responsibility led him up the ranks to the position he holds today.
“All my relevant training has been hands-on,” Scimone explains. “I needed certain basic mechanical skills, but succeeding at this job has required motivation to learn about all the different systems we use here. It’s been fantastic getting this kind of experience with such a variety of systems.”
Scimone’s job carries a lot of responsibility. “It’s a big job – and an important one for an aquaculture facility,” says US Abalone co-owner David Ebert. “It’s hard to find employees who will be on call essentially 24/7.” And that’s exactly what the company has in Scimone: he has a special alarm system at his house to alert him when the power goes out or one of the facility’s vital systems goes down. It doesn’t happen often, but making repairs in the middle of the night is not unheard of.
The best part of the job, according to Scimone, is seeing the facility grow. “I’m a production person, so I enjoy seeing new tanks go on line,” he enthuses. A lifelong surfer, he grew up along the coast and loves having an ocean-related career. He obviously loves it enough that he doesn’t even mind the occasional 2:30 a.m. alarm…
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