Thursday, May 23, 2024

Pioneering the Future of Aquaculture: From Oil Rigs to High-Tech Fish Farming in Singapore


Singapore Engineer Pivots from Oil Rigs to ‘Fish Farm of the Future’ to Ensure Enough Food Supply in Republic

A floating high-tech fish farm, christened Eco Ark, offers a glimpse into the potential future of aquaculture just off the coast of Singapore. This innovative venture represents a significant shift for its founder, a retired engineer with a background in constructing oil rigs, who is now dedicated to providing the bustling city with cleaner, healthier seafood choices.

Singapore, a tiny city-state heavily reliant on imported food, is on a mission to bolster its self-sufficiency. With 90% of its food currently imported, there’s a national agenda to locally source approximately one-third of its food by 2030. This strategic move aims to mitigate the risks of supply disruptions triggered by climate change, diseases, or conflicts.

Offering support to such sustainability initiatives, the Singaporean government has thrown its weight behind projects like Eco Ark. This massive aquafarm stands out for its capacity to generate 30,000 kilograms of seabass, grouper, and threadfin each month, an output that the venture’s pioneer, Leow Ban Tat, highlights as being twentyfold more per hectare than conventional open-net cage farms.

Leow’s approach to aquaculture is distinctively tech-driven. Eco Ark, which occupies a specialized submersible platform, employs an advanced water filtration system. Seawater is purified through an ozone machine that eradicates pathogens before it circulates into the fish tanks. These containers, designed to be six metres deep, not only simulate oceanic currents that promote healthier, leaner fish but also protect the stock from external threats such as diseases and oil spills.

One of the most compelling aspects of Leow’s operation is the emphasis on clean, antibiotic-free farming. By steering clear of antibiotics, which are commonly used in fish farms to stave off diseases but contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans and environmental issues, Eco Ark sets a new standard in sustainable fish farming. Probiotics form part of the diet for younger fish, enhancing not only digestion but overall physiological well-being.

Leow envisions a greener future for his operation by integrating solar panels to reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, the establishment of a hatchery came as a direct response to diseases observed in juvenile fish sourced from abroad. This move ensures a healthier, disease-free start for the fish reared at Eco Ark.

Boasting relations with over 80 culinary establishments, supermarkets, and specialty shops, Eco Ark enjoys a stellar reputation for delivering fresh and healthy seafood. The long-term goal extends beyond local markets; Leow aspires to export both the fish and the pioneering technology underpinning Eco Ark, potentially revolutionizing coastal farming worldwide.

Local restaurateurs like Daniel Teo of Kin Hoi, who sources fish from Eco Ark, emphasize the importance of supporting local farming ventures that understand and contribute to the economy. This localised approach to seafood production, embodied by Eco Ark’s operations, aligns closely with Singapore’s broader ambitions for food security.

Despite the commendable progress and innovation demonstrated by ventures like Eco Ark, there are voices within the sustainability community, such as Madhumitha Ardhanari of the Forum for the Future, expressing concerns over the heavy reliance on government subsidies. The long-term viability of such operations, without substantial ongoing support, remains an area of concern for some.

Yet, for patrons like Martin Pei, enjoying a dish of Eco Ark’s fried seabass at Kin Hoi, the quality of the produce speaks volumes. The delightful taste of the farmed fish, barely distinguishable from its wild counterparts, underscores the success of Eco Ark’s endeavor to revolutionize sustainable aquaculture in Singapore.

Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett is a seasoned business journalist with over a decade of experience covering the global economy, finance, and corporate strategies. With a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a Master's in Business Journalism from Columbia University, Alexandra has built a reputation for her insightful analysis and ability to break down complex economic trends into understandable narratives. Prior to joining our team, she worked for major financial publications in New York and London. Alexandra specializes in mergers and acquisitions, market trends, and economic

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