A new agribusiness has taken empty chicken houses in east Texas and successfully converted them into fish farms. East Texas Tilapia has been taking advantage of some of the opportunities created when changes to the poultry industry led to numbers of empty chicken houses across the state.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the new company is headed by Van Vaught and his partners, Jim Reed and Don Walker. Vaught and his brothers all owned chicken houses in Texas when the chicken company gave them the mandate to invest another $500,000 in the farm to make needed upgrades. They decided against it, as the deal with the company left them with no contract guarantees.

“They could have shut him down the next month and he'd have been half-a-million dollars in debt,” he told the Daily Sentinel of Nacogdoches. That was a common experience around the area at the time. Vaught estimated about 100 other broiler growers, who were in the same boat he was, shut down rather than sink additional funds into their operations.

The three partners developed a business plan to convert the chicken houses to raise tilapia. Using as many materials from the farm as possible, they built above-ground pools  to raise the fish.

"We tried to utilize as much as we could from the existing chicken house," Vaught said. "Basically, the only things we purchased were the four-by-fours (to make up the superstructure of the tanks) and the rubber liner."

"My whole goal when we started this was not just to put my houses back in production but, if we can get a successful, working model, take it out and show some of these other guys," Vaught said. "Say, 'This is what we've done and this is how you do it.'"

For more information, read the Chronicle story at: http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/East-Texas-chicken-farms-converted-to-fish-4486814.php.

Source: Houston Chronicle