Local fish farm Barramundi Asia looks nothing like the traditional kelongs that dot Singapore’s northern coast.
Here, farming is not done in nets supported by a wooden structure in the middle of the sea. Instead, the white-fleshed fish are reared in more than 30 floating sea pens at a location south of Singapore, near Pulau Semakau.
The farm – reminiscent of large salmon farms in Norway, which has a developed aquaculture industry – does not just look different. As one of the few fish farms in Singapore that is embracing technology, Barramundi Asia operates differently too.
There are 125 fish farms in Singapore, but a few players produce the bulk that is sold here. Last year, for example, five fish farms contributed about 30 per cent of Singapore’s local fish supply.
They were: Barramundi Asia, Marine Life Aquaculture, Metropolitan Fishery Group, Rong Yao Fishery and Singapore Aquaculture Technologies. All of them have adopted various technologies to make fish farming more productive.
Barramundi Asia, for example, has automated many parts of its operations, from feeding to net cleaning, which makes operations easier and more efficient, as The Straits Times recently experienced during a day at the farm.
The 18 workers at the farm do not need to get their hands dirty when it is their turn to feed the fish. Instead, a device sprays fish feed into each pen at a rate of about 50kg per minute, distributing it evenly across the pen, which can stretch up to 26m in diameter.
Climate change can cause elevated water temperatures and increased ocean acidification, which decreases water quality and causes stress on our fish. This, in turn, leaves them susceptible to diseases.
FARM MANAGER EMMANUEL DE BRAUX, on the main challenges faced by fish farms in Singapore .
The farm is considering automating this process further, by investing in a system of sensors, cameras and control panels that would allow a person sitting in a control room to monitor how much feed is being dispensed, and whether the fish are eating it.
Farm manager Emmanuel de Braux, 32, says technology can help the farm overcome two main challenges faced by fish farms in Singapore: ensuring water quality and the health of the fish. “Climate change can cause elevated water temperatures and increased ocean acidification, which decreases water quality and causes stress on our fish. This, in turn, leaves them susceptible to diseases,” he said.
The farm vaccinates its fish, rather than feed them with antibiotics to knock out pathogens. This has the added benefit of ensuring that people eating the fish do not also end up absorbing the antibiotics.
The farm now produces about 600 tonnes of fish every year. More than half of this haul goes to feed the Singapore market, while the rest goes to places such as Hong Kong, Australia and the United States. But with the use of more technology, the farm hopes to increase its output by 10 times within the next five years.