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SITE VISIT – Astor Farms: Careful planning and tight controls lead to North Carolina recirculating tilapia operation’s success

by Amy Riedel-Stone

CHARLOTTE, NC – Located in an industrial park just off the Charlotte International Airport property, Astor Farms here is producing tilapia for live markets throughout the East Coast.

Rob Ellis, owner and manager of the farm, has built a 12-tank recirculating aquaculture facility that pumps out approximately 400,000 pounds of fish per year.

The farm has two full time employees and sells tilapia throughout the Eastern US and Canada.


The beginnings

Rob started his facility to test a concept:

Could he build a profitable fish farm and ultimately expand into other species of fish and other production locations?

The answer to the first part is clearly, yes.  And Rob is just currently waiting for the timing to be right to implement phase two of his master plan.

I remember meeting Rob at a North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference a while back – before he “got wet,” so to speak..

Not only did his energy and charisma stand out, but he was also asking a lot of thoughtful questions – which told me that he wasn’t just another “going to be a fish farmer” wannabee.

He was formulating a plan and it was detailed.

Rob is a chemical engineer, and comes from the chemical manufacturing industry, which gave him the business background to know that he needed a good plan if venturing into fish farming was going to be successful.

Rob spent three years learning everything he could about all aspects of aquaculture before starting Astor Farms.

Two points of emphasis in this research were understanding costs of production and marketing.

In North Carolina, several tilapia farms have joined together and formed an agricultural marketing cooperative (co-op), called Fresh Keepers.

Because of the existing presence of fish supply, Rob knew it was imperative that he understand where he could sell and how much the market would bear.

The co-op, he said, was very helpful when Astor Farms first started selling its fish, but now they work independently…

FFN_1_15-cover…read the rest and much, much more in Issue 1, 2015 of Fish Farming News.

Download access instructions so that you can read the online flipbook AND download a pdf copy for future reference.

Permanent link to this article: http://fish-news.com/ffn/site-visit-astor-farms-careful-planning-and-tight-controls-lead-to-north-carolina-recirculating-tilapia-operations-success/