New Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center Facility Builds on Years of Programmatic Support to Seafood Industry | VTX
While upgrading a former processing facility to accommodate researchers, visiting students and critters ranging from striped bass to ornamental shrimp had many unique challenges, Schwarz said none were as disruptive as flooding. suffered in the previous installation. High tides and major storms would leave more than the central reservoirs filled with water.
“The former ROSCA at 102 S. King St. flooded regularly, interrupting our work and flooding the front office, our aquaculture research facilities with sensitive equipment and our microbiology lab, which supports the industry,” Schwarz said. .
The completion of the new building, which required the diligence and support of multiple people and parties and careful planning to meet the unique needs of the researchers, addressed these shortcomings.
Steel columns wrapped in masonry supported by driven pile foundations raise the building to a level to protect research spaces and sensitive equipment on the second and third floors from flooding.
The area under the raised floors functions as a 15-space parking garage. Reservoirs located behind the building store untreated water drawn directly from the Hampton River. Water is pumped overhead for use in recirculating aquaculture systems on the center’s second floor, where wet lab spaces include food/bioprocessing labs and aquaculture research facilities where many fish, crustaceans and bivalves are studied.
Recognized as a center of excellence for live foods and hatchery production technologies, the center’s aquaculture research facilities are highly adaptable with the ability to operate fresh, brackish and saltwater systems. The new facility was designed to be accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care to reflect Virginia Tech’s commitment to the responsible care and use of animals in research.
Faculty, staff and students have moved into the new space and are working to prepare the new aquaculture systems for the hundreds of fish and many more gallons of water that will soon be introduced into the mix.