North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference
For more information, contact:     Angela Jamison
Communicopia Marketing Services
(919) 523-5991
  Cathy Smith
North Carolina State University
(919) 515-6780

Fish growers served fresh ideas, current trends during annual conference Feb. 9-11


(Raleigh, NC, January 18, 2012) – Aquaculture, or fish farming, is an integral part of North Carolina’s economy, generating more than $50 million annually and supplying healthy, affordable protein options for consumers.

Fish farmers, retailers, researchers and other aquaculture professionals will gather to glean fresh ideas and discuss current trends at the 24th annual North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference, February 9-11, 2012, at the Riverfront Hilton in New Bern, N.C.

Aquaculture operations supply almost half of the fish and shellfish consumed in North Carolina, easing the fish industry’s ability to meet the demand for fresh fish year-round while keeping prices low and quality high.

"This annual aquaculture conference ultimately benefits anyone who produces, buys, sells and consumes fish and seafood," says Thomas M. Losordo, Ph.D., a North Carolina State University aquaculture specialist who is the chairman of the conference planning committee.


Featured conference speaker Rob Ellis, a fish farmer in Charlotte, has built a new farm that has the capacity to raise 400,000 pounds of tilapia in North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area each year. Grown in tanks housed in a large warehouse, the tilapia are in a controlled environment with no possibility of being exposed to pollutants. Ninety-five percent of the water used to raise the fish is recycled.

Aquaculture operations supply almost half of the fish and shellfish consumed in North Carolina, easing the fish industry’s ability to meet the demand for fresh fish year-round while keeping prices low and quality high.

Ellis founded Astor Farms in 2009 and sells live tilapia to chefs and Asian markets in North Carolina and cities up and down the East Coast. "Most people find it hard to believe that I can farm within the city limits. Each week we sell as much as 7,500 pounds of the cleanest tilapia you can produce," Ellis explains.

Another featured speaker during the three-day conference is David Brune, Ph.D., professor of bio-energy engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After researching algae for more than 30 years, he’s discovered a way to use it as biofuel, with little environmental waste. His latest project--researching the use of algae to develop a faster way to grow shrimp while maintaining clean water--could mean more food with less pollution.

The conference begins on Feb. 9 with local fish farm tours that provide attendees hands-on experience with various culture methods, such as ponds and tanks, of different species – hybrid bass, tilapia and prawns. Following presentations on Feb. 10, is the popular AquaFood Fest, featuring ample quantities of the state’s finest farm-raised fish and shellfish. The conference concludes on Feb. 11 with concurrent workshops on the technologies required to succeed in freshwater and marine aquaculture.

Anyone with an interest in fish or shellfish farming, including the general public, current and prospective fish growers, researchers, educators, suppliers, retailers, students or agency personnel with jobs related to aquaculture, is encouraged to attend. Details and registration information is available at


Rob Ellis, president of Astor Farms, is a featured speaker during the 24th annual North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference, February 9-11, 2012, in New Bern. Ellis’ Charlotte fish farm has the capacity to raise more than 400,000 pounds of tilapia each year using the latest technology to assure sustainability with little impact on the environment in recycled water free of pollutants.

(high resolution photo)

About the North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference

The North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference is a private, non-profit corporation formed in 1991. It provides support through promotion, marketing and other beneficial acts to strengthen, expand and diversify the industries of freshwater and marine aquaculture in North Carolina. The NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the lead state agency for aquaculture. 

About the 2012 Conference Speakers

  • Travis Larkin is this year’s keynote speaker. He is the president and owner of Seafood Exchange, which has been a major seafood processor and importer since 1979 throughout the world. He has served on the executive committee of the National Fisheries Institute, the founding board of directors for its Better Seafood Bureau and is actively involved in the Global Aquaculture Alliance.
  • Rob Ellis is the owner/operator of Astor Farms, which is located in Charlotte, N.C. Ellis’ farm utilizes the latest technology available for recirculating aquaculture systems to ensure the highest quality tilapia. His method is sustainable, limits the impact caused to the environment and allows his fish to live in water free of pollutants, all while inside Charlotte’s city limits.
  • David Brune is a bioprocess and bioenergy engineering professor, within the division of Food Sciences and Bioengineering at the University of Missouri . He is an internationally recognized expert who has worked in aquaculture, including aquaculture engineering, wastewater treatment and the recovery of waste nutrients for more than 30 years. He combines fish and algae production and harvests algae to create biofuels.
  • Chris Mullens is an extension specialist at Virginia State University (VSU). For the last five years at VSU, he has been involved with aquaponics. Previous to working at VSU, he owned and operated a hydroponic and aquaponic greenhouse in Virginia.
  • Anu Frank-Luwale is the breeding research manager at the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He spent the past five years domesticating and developing superior performing lines of oysters for the Virginia aquaculture industry.
Conference Sponsors Premium Corporate Sponsors
  • NC Aquaculture Association   • Waterlife Design Group
  • NC Department of Agriculture &  Consumer Services   • Pentair Aquaculture Technologies
  • NC Farm Bureau Federation     
  • NC Sea Grant Program Corporate Sponsors
  • NC Shellfish Growers Association   • In-Situ Aquaculture
  • NC Small Business & Technology Development Center   • Carolina Classics Catfish, Inc.
  • NC State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences