When he came across the advertisement for a Maintenance Manager of an aquaculture facility — OI — Harris was working for Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, retrofitting wood and plastic systems on nuclear submarines and renovating office facilities. The OI position struck his interest as a new adventure and opportunity to utilize his contracting experience and the Agricultural Engineering degree he had recently earned from Michigan State University.
Harris recalls his interview, meeting the head of OI and several other interesting people who were welcoming, and he saw a diverse operational facility in a great location. At the time, the facility had 13 buildings and 35 staff members, as compared to today’s 22 buildings and a significantly larger staff.
He was offered and accepted the challenging position to manage a multi-skilled maintenance crew. They were tasked with keeping the physical plant of the facility operational 24/7, while assisting with the development of new research facilities and infrastructures. One of the projects was to develop new sea water pumping systems with capacities of up to 5,000 gallons per minute and waste water treatment systems to effectively handle regulatory disposal.
Over the years, the Institute’s research efforts have expanded
with projects going worldwide. OI-HPU is believed to be the home to the largest
collection of shrimp pedigree and performance data in the world. Its
researchers set a record in 2014 of feeding and rearing yellow tang and keeping
the fish alive for 83 days. The pilot-scale research feed mill for tropical and
subtropical aquaculture in the U.S. and Pacific-Island region is the only one
of its kind, and it is located at the Makapu‘u facility.
|Jeffrey A. Harris, circa. 1998, building the saltwater infrastructure.|
As a bio-secure facility, OI-HPU has fully functioning emergency back-up systems to minimize downtime of power outages.
“(Even a) short period of power outages can be devastating to our ongoing projects and stocks,” said Harris. “We have been required to run emergency systems for several days…to keep the facility functioning where many other facilities have had to close down.”
Harris — very much a team player — is quick to point to the efforts of OI-HPU Director of Facilities Harry Ho, and Senior Mechanical Engineer Randy Honke, in meeting the diverse demands of operating the Institute. Additionally, he notes the dedication and efforts of his own crew, many of whom he has worked with for decades, including Michael Evans, Electrical Supervisor, and James “Jay” Hall, Maintenance Supervisor.
Shortly, Harris will hit his 30th work anniversary, and the genuine zeal for his job and workplace has not waned after all these years. He is excited for the future of Hawai‘i Pacific University and Oceanic Institute. With the organization celebrating 50 years of innovation and growth, he and his team are ready for developing and maintaining the facilities to meet the challenges ahead.
“No day is typical (at OI-HPU). …That’s the fun part about this adventure,” said Harris.