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Building the future of RAS

This Q&A features Thomas Epple, president/CEO and co-owner of Trivector Manufacturing and its subsidiary company, Structural Armor WRS LLC, which supplies building materials for permanent installations to the aquaculture industry.

August 4, 2020  Sponsored by by Only Alpha Pool Products

Q: What is Structural Armor WRS?
Structural Armor WRS (Water Retainment Systems) are componentized fiber reinforced composite wall systems with concrete flooring and an interior coating with a NSF / ANSI 61 compliant and PH neutral polymer. The combination of these technologies makes this product ideal for hatchery and fish farming holding tanks.

Q: What is your company’s history, and how did Structural Armor WRS get into the aquaculture industry?
My business partner, Tim Saxer and I have been in the manufacturing of building materials for the swimming pool industry for over 36 years. After 20 years of working for a leading manufacturer within that industry, Tim and I started our own company (Trivector Manufacturing) with the desire to develop different lines of building materials utilizing the latest technologies in design, materials and manufacturing processes. One of the products we envisioned had to be extremely strong, lightweight, non-corrosive, and resistant to salt. Working with engineers associated with the auto industry, we jointly developed a fiber reinforced compression molded componentized product that had the same design and material specifications as the Toyota pickup truck bed. Considering the harsh use and drastically different harsh climates that Toyota pickup trucks endure, it was a perfect design and technology for our needs. At that point we added some patented features for the ease of building, and we ended up with a componentized retaining wall system with the physical properties of concrete, yet lightweight, with an easy and quick install. We started asking ourselves, where else could our product be used? We attended and displayed at the 2020 Aquaculture Show in Honolulu and that is where our vision started becoming a reality.

Q: After visiting the 2020 Aquaculture show in Honolulu, how does Structural Armor WRS benefit the aquaculture industry?
The first thing we recognized is that the industry seemed to be very “techy” regarding the rearing of fish, the water filtration systems, the fish genetics, etc. However, from the construction and building material side, there is noticeably far less attention on technology. We thought we had the right product but really didn’t understand some of the dynamics taking place within the industry, especially the RAS side of things. After talking with attendees at the show, including Jeremy Thain from RAStech magazine, we were able to get a better understanding of the newer RAS and how our product could be adopted to fill a need of quality building materials for water retainment.


Q: What exactly does Structural Armor WRS offer to combat the challenges in the aquaculture industry?
Through our research of the industry, we found a re-occurring “theme” of size and depth being restricted. Being componentized and pre-manufactured in a controlled setting, our retaining walls are 6’ linear to 6” linear and can be manufactured to any straight configuration and any radius configuration down to a 2’ radius. Being 42” in height, they are stackable (patented design) and in most cases, can be manufactured to be any depth needed. Being able to offer depth and any shape with our componentized fiber reinforced composites, we feel our product really raises the bar in building materials technology for the industry.

Q: Are there any limitations to the tanks?
Yes. Our systems are permanent structures that are componentized and built on sight. They do require a concrete bottom and a concrete footing. They also can have up to 36” of the wall system exposed above ground. That’s about it. As we integrate ourselves more into the industry, I am sure we will find a project or two that will get us to get our wheels turning, but the basics of our technology is fit for the use, especially in the RAS factory setting. I view our tanks as nothing more then customized “machines” being permanently installed in a factory.

Q: How are the tanks water-proofed?
Actually, that is one of the best parts of the product. Another subsidiary company of ours and sister company to Structural Armor WRS LLC is Only Alpha Pool Products LLC, which was a result of our partnership with Kevin Lane at Eco Finish about 10 years ago. After a three-year R&D process where we combined both companies’ technologies, we revolutionized that industry with our Alpha Evolution product line and are the only company that can offer a pre-manufactured componentized system with an in-the-field spray-on waterproof coating. Eco Finish has a NSF/ ANSI 61 compliant internal coating material that is available in a variety of colors. It can even have a pebble or granite look. It really is a perfect fit.

Q: How is the product installed?
The process is quite easy. Upon request, we would design and draw the layout. We would then break that layout into individual water retaining structures, and quote per structure and total job. Upon approval and order, we would then assign an onsite project manager to the project and he/she would oversee the entire build process with the general contractor. The panels would be built to order in our factory and shipped on our trucks to the jobsite. And then, in as little as a week after the structures are built, our coating company, Evolution Coatings LLC, would arrive and coat the entire project. In the real world, it is never that easy, but outside of working with the general contractor and his contracting labor, we control the entire process from start to finish.

Q: What most excites you about the aquaculture industry?
I listened to one of the first RAStech podcasts and found it very enlightening. They were explaining that the industry has a long history of R&D and that it is now scalable. They also mentioned that the raising fish for food where the population centers are the future and investment is taking notice. To me, when you have the right product for the application, have “state of the art” technology with it, and you have multiple patents on it, you have to engage it. And that is exciting.

Q: How can someone get in touch with your company?
You can contact Daniel Epple at d.epple@structuralarmor.com, Tim Saxer at t.saxer@structuralarmor.com, even myself at t.epple@structuralarmor.com. Visit us at 4404 Engle Ridge Drive, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46804 or feel free to call our sister company Only Alpha Pool Products at 260-637-0141. Any of us can get the process started and answer any questions you might have.

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