Tilapia Production a Viable Segment of NC Agriculture

Aquaculture, year after year continues to gain a larger portion of the North Carolina agricultural pie, and Spencer Dean, of TS Dean Farms, near Louisberg talks of his jump from hog production to tilapia production in 1996:

"At that time I was working with my future partner at a hog farm. He wanted to diversify his business and we talked about doing a business venture together. We both felt very positive about aquaculture and its future. All of the health publications were promoting for people to eat more fish. We looked into the different species that were out there and what was involved in raising them. We felt like the recirculating system was something we had an edge on, and it prompted our interest in Tilapia and we went from there.”

Dean explains how they arrived at tilapia production:

“The tilapia is a fresh water fish and is viable to raise in large tanks inside buildings. Production would allow it to be available 52 weeks of the year, which no other seafood is like that. We also just really liked the product and thought that restaurants and consumers would agree.”

As far as marketing the product, Dean explains that situation has evolved from their original goal:

“Everyone in the US, not just us, that raised tilapia, are selling into the live market where they have aquariums set up. They will go in alive and the consumer will pick out what fish they want and then it will be prepared. The filets that you see actually come in from Central America. We felt like with our background in confined livestock, that there would be a big expansion in the tilapia if we were able to filet the product and put an American product in the supermarket. That was our original and first goal in the industry. There are just a few more things that need to line up for the industry to grow to that level in the US.”

We’ll be hearing more from Spencer Dean of TS Dean Farms all this week on Inside Agriculture

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