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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Have an Unused Barn? Raise Some Fish in It

August 15, 2006

LONDON, Ohio -- Ohio producers unsure of what to make of their unused hog, veal or poultry barns have the option of turning the structures into a viable aquaculture facility.


Farmers across the state are converting their barns into re-circulating aquaculture systems and Ohio State University aquaculturists with South Centers at Piketon in Piketon, Ohio, are educating farmers on how to make the switch through a $25,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

"I get a lot of phone calls that start out, ‘I've got this barn….'," said Laura Tiu, an OSU Extension aquaculturist with South Centers. "Raising fish in a barn is just one way farmers can economically maintain a facility that they would no longer use if they don't raise hogs or poultry anymore."

Tiu will be on-hand at Farm Science Review Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. at the Center for Small Farms to discuss raising fish in old farm buildings. Ohio State University's Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 19-21 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

Tiu and her colleagues are developing a CD that highlights the experiences of farmers who have installed a re-circulating aquaculture system in their barns, the challenges they faced, the species they chose and why, and the economics behind the installation. The disk also covers such areas as decision-making, business planning, marketing and facilities/systems. The tool is designed to inform farmers the basics of installing such a system and preparing Extension Educators for when they work with farmers interested in the idea.

Tiu, who also holds a partial Ohio Agriculture Research and Developnment Center research appointment, said that converting old barns into re-circulating aquaculture systems are growing in popularity for a number of reasons: an indoor system is more conducive to a longer season, it allows farmers to raise fish year-round as opposed to their options with ponds, it targets an underdeveloped segment of the industry, and when installed properly can generate profitable alternative revenue.

"A re-circulating system, unlike ponds, uses the same water over again. You don't drain the water after each harvest. You just put the water through a filter system, much like how an aquarium works," said Tiu. "Such a system is good for places where water may be scarce, like in southern Ohio, where it's very popular."

Of course there are downsides to a re-circulating aquaculture system, much like other production practices -- cost for one.

"There are inexpensive methods of installing aquaculture systems, in the range of $25,000. But, in the long run, they are not economical. Right now, to install a re-circulating system properly will set farmers back about a quarter million dollars," said Tiu. "But really when you think about it, that's not any more expensive that starting a hog or poultry operation."

Installation costs will also depend on the type of species a farmer wants to raise, what market will be targeted and what region of the state the system will be located.

For more on raising fish in old farm buildings, visit Farm Science Review. Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the academic units of the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. It takes place Sept. 19-21 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept 19-20 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 21. For more information, see

The CD "I've got this barn…" is expected to be available this fall.


Candace Pollock
Laura Tiu, Shawn McWhorter