Embracing new technology crucial for fish farm sustainability: Koh Poh Koon

Angela Lim Channel NewsAsia 15 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Embracing new technologies is crucial to ensuring the continued sustainability of fish farms in Singapore, said Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon.

Speaking at Republic Polytechnic's Aquaculture Industry Engagement Day on Thursday (Sep 15), he said this is so especially in light of new challenges brought about by climate change and declining wild fish stocks around the world.

He cited the example of algae blooms and how local fish farmers have been embracing new technologies like closed containment aquaculture systems and land-based systems used by local fish farms to control water conditions.

Algae blooms wiped out 500 tonnes of fish stocks in 77 fish farms last year, with farmers citing losses of more than S$1 million.

To tackle this, Dr Koh said coastal farms like Apollo Aquarium are going indoors with a land-based aquaculture system which maintains the water at an optimum condition, allowing the company to grow more fish while reducing water consumption by up to 90 per cent.

About 200 aquaculture experts, industry professionals and students were gathered at Republic Polytechnic on Thursday to discuss global trends, emerging technologies and sustainable practices for future industry needs.

Some experts say land-based farming, that has been successful in countries like Israel, could be a viable option for Singapore, along with contained sea-based farming.

"Moving on land is one area we can seriously explore,” said Chan Wei Loong, Programme Chair for the Diploma in Marine Science and Aquaculture at Republic Polytechnic. “With technology, for example, you stack them up almost like a 'condominium' for fishes. You stack them up high-rise and you're able to increase their volume in a box-sized area."

To keep the industry sustainable and competitive, Dr Koh stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation between research institutions and fish farms, encouraging farmers to open their minds to new technologies, as well as attracting young talent to the aquaculture industry.

"Without young fish farmers to take over, the industry will inevitably decline,” he said. “To attract today's young, we must change not just the image of the aquaculture sector, but also the nature of the work in the sector.”

- CNA/ek

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