Blue Ridge Aquaculture (BRA), Inc. is the world’s largest producer of tilapia using indoor recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). Each year, Blue Ridge Aquaculture produces over 4 million pounds of tilapia, shipping between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds of live tilapia every day. These fish are raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones, and are free of mercury (undetectable levels from independent studies) and other industrial pollutants.
Blue Ridge Aquaculture was founded in 1993, and has been in continuous operation for nearly thirty years. Headquarters and operations are located in Martinsville, Virginia. The company operates out of an 100,000 ft2 facility, and employs approximately thirty-five people.
The Company sells live fish to distributors in major metropolitan markets in the North East, such as New York, Boston, Toronto and Washington, D.C. These consumers are primarily Asian and Hispanic-American individuals with a cultural preference for live seafood. Management believes that BRA currently controls approximately 20% of the domestic market for live tilapia.
BRA’s indoor Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) grows seafood in a clean environment that allows control to a degree not available in open system aquaculture (ponds, net-pens, flow-through). Recirculating systems maximize water re-use through the removal of solids, bio-filtration, gas balancing, oxygenation and disinfection. This technology eliminates the need for a large water source as well as the environmental impact associated with disposing of wastewater. BRA leads the industry in all aquaculture performance measures, including high growth rates, high production densities, low Feed Conversion Ratio’s, and very low mortalities. The company understands the negative effects of stress on the animals and maintains ideal living conditions for optimal and efficient growth.
BRA operates with a focus on its triple bottom line. From an environmental perspective, the Company believes RAS are the most environmentally beneficial source of protein because of its relatively small ecological footprint, the high water re-use (over 85% of the water is recycled back into the system), and captured effluent with no environmental discharge. Socially, BRA views its workforce as an asset and an advantage, which is reflected in the wages and benefits program it offers. The company has a strong health insurance program for qualified employees. Economically, the company has generated attractive returns, and believes these returns will continue.
Blue Ridge Aquaculture, Inc. was founded in 1993 with plans to produce tilapia using an existing indoor aquaculture facility in Martinsville, Virginia. The Martinsville facility had produced and processed catfish in previous years as Blue Ridge Fisheries (1988 – 1991), but the business was not successful in overcoming engineering design flaws and eventually ceased operations. Two years later Blue Ridge Aquaculture was incorporated, and a newer, stronger company emerged with redesigned equipment and processes to improve survivability and growth rates. After modifying the 100,000 square foot facility, Blue Ridge Aquaculture began producing tilapia in 1993. Over the coming years, Blue Ridge Aquaculture implemented a strict bio-secure program. Operating with a culture of disease prevention, the company has been able to operate disease free.
By 2002, Blue Ridge Aquaculture was operating as a fully integrated system, including broodstock, hatchery, nursery, growout and distribution of live tilapia. At that point it was producing approximately two million pounds of tilapia per year. Over the next 5 years (2002 - 2007), Blue Ridge Aquaculture focused on improving its bottom-line, concentrating on quality, supply reliability and positioning of the Blue Ridge Aquaculture tilapia in the marketplace. By 2007 Blue Ridge Aquaculture was able to double production, with a similar increase in revenue. In 2017, the company continued its expansion with the addition of an on-site aquafeed mill, Blue Ridge Aquafeeds. A new hatchery and nursery facility was added in 2020. Blue Ridge Aquaculture anticipates future expansion projects, furthering the vertical integration of the company.
Mr. Martin, CEO and founder of Blue Ridge Aquaculture, possesses a longstanding successful career in aquaculture. The technical developments that have enabled continuous rearing of fish under high density recirculating conditions without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified fish have been refined by Mr. Martin and his staff for more than 30 years. As a result, Blue Ridge Aquaculture has become North America's largest Tilapia producer. Mr. Martin is a member of multiple US aquaculture organizations including the Board for the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), where he previously served as Co-Chair, and the National Aquaculture Association (NAA). He serves as Vice-Chair on the Board of Directors for the Southern Regional Aquaculture Association (SRAC) as well as Vice-Chair for the Virginia Marine Products Board. He is also Chairman of the Board, and a Founding Member of the US Aquaculture Coop. Mr. Martin has served as an operational consultant to multiple aquaculture companies where he has evaluated both large and small aquaculture production entities on a global basis in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Martin is the President of Blue Ridge Aquaculture and has over 10 years of experience in aquaculture development projects in the U.S., Colombia, South Africa, and Zambia. He serves on the Governor of Virginia Aquaculture Advisory Board and the Global Aquaculture Alliance RAS Technical Standards Committee.He joined the Company in 2008 to initially explore commercializing marine shrimp production in RAS. Martin holds an International MBA from the Business School of Vienna(Austria) and the University of South Carolina, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Charleston
Mr. Holley, Chief Operating Officer, has overseen the development and growth of Blue Ridge Aquaculture's operations since the inception of the company and has over 30 years of aquaculture experience. He has extensive experience in facilities design, facilities management, construction, electrical systems and plumbing. Mr. Holley also has expertise in incorporating aquaculture system design into an operational facility. Further, Mr. Holley has led the operations team in continued improvement to drive operational efficiencies.
Mr. Franklin joined Blue Ridge Aquaculture in 2007 with 20 years of business experience in manufacturing, accounting, and seafood processing at Bassett Furniture Industries, Piedmont Trust Bank, and Blue Ridge Fisheries, respectively. He is Vice President at BRA, working mainly with financial and operational management and reporting, and business development. Mr. Franklin has extensive operational experience managing production plants for Bassett Furniture Industries where he was responsible for production of over 40 million dollars annually and over 400 employees. He assisted Bassett in its transition to a standard cost accounting system and implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning system where he worked with supply chain management from raw material procurement to distribution of finished goods. He worked as the Wood Division Controller to develop financial & operational reporting to increase productivity through lean manufacturing and theory of constraint analysis. Mr. Franklin and his management team dramatically increased production productivity while simultaneously reducing operational costs by over 30%. As the Director of Internal Audit at Bassett, he worked to increase the effectiveness of Sarbanes Oxley management controls and audit operations throughout the supply chain to utilize best management practices. Mr. Franklin was the processing manager for Blue Ridge Fisheries and oversaw the daily operations of the catfish processing facility from production planning to delivery of finished products. The processing facility produced United States Department of Commerce (USDC) Grade A catfish fillets and value added products for markets on the east coast of the US. He utilized continuous improvement management techniques to train the staff and exceed USDC inspection requirements.
Mr. Prillaman is responsible for tilapia operations and fish health, including broodstock, hatchery operations, growout operations and disease prevention. He has expertise in fish biology and the relationships within aquaculture systems . Through this knowledge, he has developed protocols to ensure growout conditions are optimal and all performance measures are well beyond industry averages. Mr. Prillaman has been with the company since it was founded, and holds a BS in fisheries science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Mr. Sharp has over 25 years experience working in aquaculture since being with the company since 1998. At Blue Ridge Aquaculture, he has oversight over the production of 15 million fry per year and subsequent grading and selection of fingerlings up to a size of 30 grams. He also manages the company's broodstock program. He has added experience in high density rotifer culture using recirculation technology, artemia production, live feed enrichment, and successful larval rearing and weaning protocols.
Mr. Harris joined the company in 2006 as the Facilities Designer and Project Manager. His responsibilities include the design development of the building and process engineering systems, project planning, and construction management. Mr. Harris also oversees or assists with many of the research and development projects undertaken by the company. Mr. Harris holds a BA from the College of Charleston and attended the Masters of Architecture Program at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.