Speech by MOS Zaqy Mohamad at AquaSG 2018

Oct 3, 2018 14:00

Thank you for inviting me to open the AquaSG 2018 Conference.  AquaSG was started in 2015 to provide a platform for industry players and academics in the aquaculture sector to exchange ideas and build networks.  Today, I understand that 150 participants from about 14 organisations are at this conference.  

The world faces the threat of a global food shortage, as food supply may not keep up with demand. The increases to global yield are expected to diminish by 2.5% per decade due to climate change. Today, 90% of the world’s fish species are either exploited or depleted. Meanwhile, the farming workforce is aging and fewer youths are entering the traditional farming sector worldwide.  We are now at a crossroads where a confluence of factors presents opportunities to turn these challenges around.  

Aquaculture is one such area.  There are significant opportunities for aquaculture farms to harness technology to scale up production in a sustainable and resource-efficient way.  Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors in the world.  It accounts for 50% of the world’s fish that is used for food.  Farmed fish production has also been expanding by 4% to 5% a year.   This puts it on course to exceed the output from wild fishing as early as next year!  In this regard, the theme of this year’s conference ‘Investment and Current Practices in Aquaculture Technology’ is timely.  

In Singapore’s context, it is especially important that we transform our aquaculture industry into one that is productive, innovative and sustainable. As a small country, we face constraints in land, sea space and labour. But by adopting technology and pushing technological boundaries, we can optimise resources, increase productivity, and enhance food security. I am glad that we are already seeing this happen in our local aquaculture scene today. 

Our aquaculture farms can tap on a suite of services to make the shift.  For example, AVA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund co-funds up to 70% of the costs incurred for the adoption of technology and advanced farming systems. AVA has also tendered out a tranche of food fish land plots using the fixed price method, to encourage farms to compete on the best concepts.  The results were recently released and I am heartened to hear that the winning proposals focused on productive and innovative farming systems. 

Apollo Aquaculture Group is a good example.  It plans to build an integrated farming hub with intensive farming facilities for production.  This will include an eight-tier system which will be more than double the height of its current facility, which is stacked three tanks high.  The new system at full capacity will raise the current annual yield of 110 tonnes to about 2,000 tonnes.  Another example, the Blue Aqua International Group, is planning to use its patented intensive farming system to produce about 500 tonnes of fish and 200 tonnes of shrimp a year. This is expected to be almost 10 times more productive than conventional land-based farms. 

The adoption of technology is not just limited to the setting up of farms on new plots of land.  Our existing farmers can and should reinvent themselves.  I am happy that some of our farms are leading the way.  One example is Singapore Aquaculture Technologies (SAT). It has converted part of its operations from the use of open net cages to a floating barge adapted for a closed containment system. Through the use of water treatment systems, water quality has been improved with oxygenation and UV sterilisation. This allows seabass to grow at densities that are 4 times higher in tanks compared to open net cages. SAT also uses automated water monitoring systems, reducing the farm’s reliance on labour.  

As our aquaculture industry matures, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) will continue to play a key role in our transformation journey.  We need more partnerships between our IHLs, research institutes and industry players.  There are plenty of synergies if we can work collectively.  In this regard, I am heartened that Temasek Polytechnic is planning to work with AVA, A*STAR, and several other polytechnics and universities to set up the Centre of Innovation in Aquaculture.  The centre will serve to promote collaboration and sharing of manpower expertise and facilities among the participating agencies and IHLs. I am also glad to hear that Temasek Polytechnic will be working with the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation (SAFEF) on training workshops and applied research which will be relevant to our agricultural sector.  We need more of such industry collaborations that can benefit the sector.       

Let me conclude by saying that the aquaculture industry is entering exciting times.  While it is still early days, there is potential for us to scale up to become a leader in tropical marine aquaculture.  This will mean both greater food security for Singapore and a more vibrant local aquaculture industry if we succeed, both here and internationally. I wish all of you a fruitful conference ahead.   

Thank you.