Tuesday, March 23, 1999

2 raise money for indoor fish farm in N.Ky.




BY MIKE BOYER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A small Northern Kentucky firm hopes the popularity of tilapia, a white fish native to Africa, will spawn the area's first large indoor aquaculture business.

        Bishop-Ashby Enterprises Inc., formed two years ago by Natalie Bishop and Jeff Ashby, recently received a commitment for $25,000 from the private Cincinnati Venture Fund I Ltd. toward its planned $2.5 million fish-growing facility on 10 acres near Morning View in southern Kenton County.

        “It's an incredible fish,” said Ms. Bishop, a former Procter & Gamble Co. market researcher who operated her own computer services firm before embarking with Mr. Ashby on the new venture.

        “Chefs likes to use it in all kinds of ways. If you order white fish in a restaurant, there's a good chance it's tilapia.”

        The commitment from the Cincinnati Venture Fund, made up of private investors who participate in the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association, is contingent on Bishop-Ashby raising about $500,000 in working capital.

        Ms. Bishop said the fund's commitment will give her company increased credibility raising money from other funds and private investors.

        Cincinnati attorney William Kohlhepp, chairman of the18-month-old fund, said raising seed money for promising projects was one of the fund's objectives.

        “We think there's a demand for their product and they have knowledge of the business and there's not another facility like it in this area,” Mr. Kohlhepp said.

        Ms. Bishop said the firm hopes to begin construction on a 35,000-square-foot building with a closed, recirculating water system this summer.

        Bishop-Ashby hopes to begin harvesting 20,000 pounds of tilapia a week in about a year. At a current wholesale price of $2 a pound, the company anticipates first year revenues of $2 million.

        The U.S. market for tilapia is 94 million pounds annually, but only about 17 million is raised in the United States.

        Northern Kentucky's proximity to major markets and the increasing popularity of fresh fish make tilapia a natural, Ms. Bishop said.

       



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