Republic Poly opens aquaculture centre

Nur Isyana Isaman and Shahidah Adriana Channel NewsAsia 9 Jan 14;

SINGAPORE: Republic Polytechnic has opened an aquaculture centre, the first of its kind at a polytechnic in Singapore.

The Aquaria, as it is called, is a technologically-advanced learning facility for students in the new Diploma in Marine Science and Aquaculture course, where they will conduct research in outdoor and indoor laboratories.

The centre will also support research in marine science and aquaculture technologies, supporting Singapore's goal to boost the local food fish production.

Three agreements were also signed with industry partners to conduct collaborations on research projects and student internships.

Ashley Chua, deputy director of School of Applied Science at Republic Polytechnic, said: "We also have a long, 16-week internship programme where they (the students) will be sent out to the farms to be exposed to farm operations."

Minister of State for National Development Dr Maliki Osman said: "The new course -- the Marine Science and Aquaculture course -- is a move in the right direction. We are supportive of this because it meets the needs of the country. It provides opportunities for the industry to work with educational institutions like Republic Poly to develop R&D (research and development) capabilities."

- CNA/gn

Aquaculture centre opens at Republic Poly
Today Online 10 Jan 14;

SINGAPORE — An aquaculture centre has opened for Republic Polytechnic students in its new Marine Science and Aquaculture diploma programme, which aims to take in 50 students this year.

The centre will conduct research in areas such as fish-feed formulation and identifying more cost-effective fish-health management methods in aquaculture facilities.

The Government aims to increase the local production of fish from about 7 per cent to 15 per cent of local consumption. Approximately half the fish and shellfish consumed around the world are produced through aquaculture, also known as aquafarming.

The 180-sq-m facility on the polytechnic’s premises has five outdoor circular fibreglass tanks for a wide array of fresh and saltwater fishes. It also has 48 experimental tanks indoors with ultraviolet light and temperature-control capabilities for sea and freshwater teleost and crustaceans, as well as another tank for coral conservation studies and research.

Polytechnic Principal and Chief Executive Officer Yeo Li Pheow said: “It is important to ensure that our students are kept abreast of modern aquaculture technologies so that they can act as conduits, translating advanced techniques and technologies into the industry, thus accelerating the growth of our local aquaculture industry.

Speaking at the launch event yesterday, guest of honour Maliki Osman, who is Minister of State for National Development, said the government is supportive of the new diploma course because it meets the needs of the country.

“It provides opportunities for the industry to work with educational institutions such as Republic Polytechnic to develop research and development capabilities,” he said.

Three agreements were also signed with industry partners to conduct collaborations on research projects and student internships.

Mr Ashley Chua, Deputy Director of the School of Applied Science at the polytechnic, said: “We also have a long 16-week internship programme where (the students) will be sent to the farms to be exposed to farm operations.” Nur Isyana Isaman and Shahidah Adriana

Speech by MOS Maliki Osman at the opening ceremony of Republic Polytechnic Aquaculture Centre
Ministry of National Development 9 Jan 14;

1 It is my pleasure to be here this morning at the opening of The Aquaria, Republic Polytechnic’s Aquaculture Centre.

2 Today is also Republic Polytechnic’s Open House 2014, which will showcase a new Diploma in Marine Science and Aquaculture. I believe these new developments will help support, nurture and grow Singapore’s aquaculture industry.

Ensuring food supply resilience
3 Singapore imports more than 90% of its food supply. Hence, our key strategy to ensure our food supply resilience is to diversify our overseas sources of food. We import various food items, be they fresh, chilled or frozen, from more than 100 countries. In the case of food fish, we import from more than 60 countries, and as far as Norway.

4 At the same time, we complement our source diversification strategy by locally producing key food items, namely, leafy vegetables, food fish and eggs. As we are not an agricultural country, and with limited land for farming, local production is expectantly on a small scale. Nevertheless, during supply disruptions, our local produce can help meet our local demand to some extent.

5 Today, our consumption of live and chilled fish is 52,000 tonnes, of which 3,200 tonnes, or 6% of the total fish consumption is produced by our food fish farming industry. The rest is imported.

6 Currently, our local supply comes mainly from coastal fish farms in north-east and north-west of Singapore. They produce marine food fish species like seabass, grouper, and snapper as well as green mussel and crustacean. There are also freshwater food fish farms producing tilapia, snakehead, catfish and carp. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has set a target of 15% of fish to be produced locally. At the farm level, there is also a minimum production level of 17 tonnes of fish per half-hectare space per year

Challenges ahead

7 To meet these ambitious targets of increasing local food fish production, our local fish farming industry faces significant challenges. For a start, both land and sea space for farming is limited in Singapore due to many other competing uses such as housing, industry, defence, transport, port and maritime activities. The farms also face a shortage of manpower, and in particular, there are not many Singaporeans who are keen to work in this sector. Third and not the least, there are also high risks of fish and seafood related disease outbreaks at the farms, especially in the coastal fish farms.

8 To address these challenges, AVA is actively collaborating with various stakeholders, namely, the farms, educational and research institutions. Let me briefly elaborate three broad areas.

9 First, there is scope for more research and development (R&D) in the field of aquaculture. In 2003, AVA set up its Marine Aquaculture Centre to develop and harness technology to facilitate the development and expansion of large-scale hatchery and fish farming production in Singapore and the region. AVA’s Aquaculture Centre, in collaboration with Rong-Yao Fisheries Pte Ltd, was successful in spawning pompano, or golden pomfret, fry in tropical waters on a commercially viable scale. I visited the Rong-Yao Fisheries facilities recently and was very impressed at their clear vision and passion to succeed in this field. I encourage companies to also invest in aquaculture R&D. There are many areas of research focus, including stock enhancement, selective breeding for faster growth or disease resistance, fish nutrition and feeding. Such R&D will help boost our local food fish production.

10 Second, we must take bold steps to boost the productivity of our fish farms. To this end, AVA has been working closely with fish farmers to develop farm productivity improvement plans, conducting R&D and technology transfer, and advising them on good farm management practices like fish health and feed management protocols. Farmers are encouraged to leverage on AVA’s Food Fund, which is now in its third tranche of $10 million. The Fund supports R&D of farming technology with direct practical industry application, so as to maximise local farm productivity to help ensure food supply resilience. For example, one fish farm off the coast of Lim Chu Kang tapped on the Food Fund to purchase a water quality monitoring system that can monitor the dissolved oxygen levels in the fish nets and alert the farmer through SMS when low levels are detected.

11 Third, we should aim towards attracting and nurturing more younger Singaporeans to join the sector. It is important to develop the manpower capability to help transform the industry and achieve higher productivity. I am glad that Republic Polytechnic supports and nurtures the aquaculture industry by training a pool of skilled professionals for the future. The polytechnic’s Aquaculture Centre as well as its new Diploma in Marine Science and Aquaculture offer an excellent opportunity to attract and train young Singaporeans. As the Principal and CEO of Republic Polytechnic has earlier mentioned, this new centre will not only train students, but also facilitate collaborative projects with Republic Polytechnic’s partners. The MOUs that Republic Polytechnic is signing with Temasek Lifesciences Laboratory (TLL), the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) and Resorts World Sentosa Marine Life Park (MLP) today, as well as the Joint Lab Agreement with James Cook University (JCU), will value add to the students’ learning experience by opening up more opportunities in areas such as internships, scholarships and industry related final-year projects. The staff exchanges and joint R&D projects will also forge closer ties with the players in this sector. The joint laboratory with James Cook University on marine research and conservation is a case in point. We must continuously develop new aquaculture technologies and ensure a sustained pipeline of skilled manpower to support the growth of the sector.

12 AVA also supports the industry in capability development. I understand that there are currently two students from Republic Polytechnic on internship at AVA who are involved in projects to study parasites in locally farmed food fish as well as feed nutrition for guppy growth and maturity. I am confident that their project findings would come in handy for the industry.

13 Let me conclude by saying that for Singapore’s food security, ensuring a sustainable supply of food for Singaporeans, all of us – the industry, educational and research institutions, and the Government – must work hand-in-hand to raise farm productivity with more R&D and technology adoption. Each of us cannot achieve this on our own. I look forward to greater collaboration amongst all the stakeholders in the years ahead.

14 On this note, let me congratulate Republic Polytechnic on the opening of the new Aquaculture Centre and launching the new Diploma in Marine Science and Aquaculture. I look forward to seeing your graduates infuse new and exciting ideas and innovation into the aquaculture industry. All the very best. Thank you.