Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Business

March 19, 2012

AG FOCUS: Tilapia farming continues to catch on in Goshen

GOSHEN — In the hot, steamy former rubber factory building that houses a new fish-growing enterprise, John Metz held up a jug of water taken from a nearby tank used to raise tilapia.

“It’s not fertilizer,” he said of the jug’s content. “It just contains soil amendment that invigorates the soil and allows plants to take up nutrients more readily.”

The liquid fish-farming byproduct is being sold by Northern Indiana Aquaproducts, which is tucked into a once-abandoned building at the former Western Rubber Co. complex on Wilden Avenue. The soil amendment is based on the tank water from the tilapia-raising operation, which is the newest form of agriculture in Elkhart County. The company also sells a powdered form of the amendment.

Metz and his partners, Kevin Boyer and Vince Del Prete, are all from Elkhart. When they looked around for a business venture to begin they quickly rejected the area’s recreational industry model and grabbed hold of the idea of raising tilapia and other seafood.

“What does everyone need,” Metz rhetorically asked. “Food.”

When Metz and his partners wanted to turn their idea into reality, they needed cash.

“Funding was terrible,” Metz said.

The partners sought out government funds, including grants, but nothing much was available. Then they turned to banks.

“We love your idea. We like your business model,” Metz said he was told by bankers. “We are just not going to give you any money.”

The only help they received was coaching and advocacy from the Small Business Development Center in South Bend. In 2011 the organization voted Northern Indiana Aquaproducts as its best emerging business.

The three investors now have 20,000 red, blue and white tilapia in three 3,600 gallon tanks. They are shipping fish to the Asian markets in Chicago and Toronto, Canada and other Eastern markets.

Tilapia is a favorite seafood in the Asian community, according to Metz. Seafood is a bit of a misnomer as the fish live in freshwater and are a cichlid, which is a family of fish native to Africa and the Middle East. Tilapia have been introduced around the world in warm-water areas and are widely grown in aquaculture operations because they grow quickly in warm water and are tasty, according to Metz.

The fish arrive as fry in Goshen and are then fed pelletized food for seven months before they are marketable. The ideal size for meals is 1½ pounds, Metz said.

“The smaller ones travel better,” he said. “The larger ones can get damaged.”

The company hires a hauler who delivers 10,000 to 12,000 fish at a time. Metz said markets and restaurants have holding tanks where they display the fish, the same as lobster is displayed live, so consumers can pick out the ones they want for dinner.

Business expanding

Northern Indiana Aquaproducts is already expanding its operation. Metz showed off the company’s larger building along Wilden Avenue that is being renovated to accommodate six saltwater tanks to raise white Pacific shrimp and two more tilapia tanks. The front of the building is being converted into a retail area that will be open to the public.

“You can place your order in the morning,” Metz said, “then come back by 5 p.m. and pick up your order.”

A greenhouse will be added this spring, where herbs and other plants will be grown to supply local restaurants and markets, he said. In accordance with the partners’ belief that nothing should be wasted, the plants will be fed with the company’s soil supplement.

As Metz looked around the expansive concrete block building that was being studded out for drywalling, he said, “This is a huge step up for us.”

It will take six to seven months for the first harvest from the new tanks. He expects the company will be producing 300,000 pounds of fish annually and 600 pounds of shrimp weekly by 2013.

“The bad part about this is we have outgrown that building next door,” he said of the original operation. “And as soon as we get in here we will have outgrown it. We are packed to the gills.”

Contracted growing is a standardized way that food companies obtain enough raw product to meet their retail needs. Northern Indiana Aquaproducts intends to bring the concept to fish farming.

The company has entered into a couple of contracts already with people who want to supply tilapia with the support of the company’s fish-farming knowledge.

“We have some people who have some unutilized space,” Metz said. “If they stay on our contract we will buy fish from them all day long. It is a way for us to expand without using up our capital.”

A growing business

Bob Rode is one of two people at Purdue University who oversee aquaculture education at the university. He is a member of the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center, one of five regional aquaculture centers established by Congress.

He said fish farming is still a tiny part of the state’s agriculture industry.

“Just recently we found out there is actually an uptick in the size and number of operations in the state,” Rode said. “It is still very small, but it is gaining ground in the state. One of the reasons is the locally-grown initiative that is coming on, where people want to know what is in their food and where it comes from.”

One of the best things about aquaculture as a business, according to Rode, is that an operation can start small and grow as the owners wish.

He said the Indiana aquaculture industry is growing mainly through word-of-mouth.

“Once you get a few places started and news gets out, they kind of feed on themselves,” he said.

Rode explained the aquaculture industry inputs are no more or less volatile than any other ag operation, so success is based on marketing.

“It’s really about finding your market,” he said. “Some of that has to do with size. If you are doing a local market, you can only get to a certain size.”

And there is competition, especially from catfish operations in the South, where the warmer weather allows fish to grow quicker without heating costs.

“It costs more here.” Rode said, “so you have to offer a premium product.”

Producers of aquaculture products should be thinking about the global market, Rode said. As China and India become more prosperous, the people there are consuming more food, including seafood. That has an impact on prices for products in Indiana.

“Seafood on a global scale,” Rode said, “is going to become more scarce, or more expensive.”

1
Text Only
Business
  • BIZ GN140424 automakers china image Automakers scramble to woo young Chinese BEIJING -- At age 32, Jason Jia already is the kind of customer luxury automakers are seeking as competition grows in China's lucrative but crowded market. The energy industry consultant has traded up from a Volkswagen Polo to a VW GTI. Now, as he st

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ GN0424 infuse salon Infuse Salon relocates in Middlebury MIDDLEBURY — Infuse Salon in Middlebury has been around since 2009, under new ownership since 2012 and recently launched a website that allows customers to book appointments online. So Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the salon’s location along U

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seed corn company expanding Howe facility HOWE — An agriculture company will invest $4 million to expand its local facility. Acccording to the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp., Gro Alliance will add a warehouse and six new corn dryers to its seed corn operation near Howe. Additiona

    April 22, 2014

  • BIZ GN0423 economy image Spring lifts U.S. economy WASHINGTON — Spring's thaw is reviving the economy, too. A recent batch of government and business reports show a U.S. economy emerging from winter's deep freeze. Economists had expected the growth to accelerate in 2014 after two years of slow and

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS GN140421 jobless rate Elkhart County jobless rate drops to 5.8 percent

    Elkhart County’s jobless rate dropped below 6 percent last month, according to figures released today by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
    The March unemployment rate for the county was estimated at 5.8 percent, compared to the February estimate of 6.2 percent and the March 2013 figure of 8.3 percent.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ GN0421 digital life review image Windows Phone advances with 8.1 update NEW YORK -- Microsoft's new Windows system for smartphones addresses many of the shortcomings in previous versions. Before, voice search lacked the natural language interactions of Apple's Siri and Google Now. The updated Windows Phone system has Cor

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ GN140421 small business image Mentors help minority companies NEW YORK -- Mel Gravely says his construction company might not exist today if he didn't have mentors to guide it. Gravely's company, TriVersity, joined a program called a minority business accelerator even before he bought a controlling interest in

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ GN0420 car talk image Beetle marks 65th year since entry into U.S. Sixty-five years after the first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the United States as a distinctively shaped, little car, the Beetle keeps attracting buyers with its more-spacious-than-ever, flexible interior, turbo engine power and modernized iconic lo

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ GN0420 tech talk image Mistakes businesses make with their home page Mistakes businesses make with their home page

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ben's Pretzels adds three franchises GOSHEN — Ben’s Soft Pretzels will open three new franchised pretzel bakeries in the next 45 days. According to the company, leases have been signed and construction has begun on the stores. The Madison, Wis. location will be in the West Towne Mall. T

    April 18, 2014

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video
Raw: Kangaroo Rescued From Swimming Pool Raw: 3 American Doctors Killed in Afghanistan Raw: Obama Arrives at State Dinner in Tokyo Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot Raw: Obama Visits Meiji Shrine in Tokyo Stars Talk Guns N' Roses at Golden Gods New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888 Oregon Gay Marriage Ban Goes to Court SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye'
Poll

There has been discussion at West Goshen Elementary School to require mandatory student uniforms in the future. How do you feel about the prospect of mandatory student uniforms in a public school environment?

I think it’s an excellent idea that is way overdue
I think it’s a bad idea and would be restrictive for students and parents.
     View Results