Fish deaths: Investing in new system to do better

The recent plankton bloom wiped out Gills 'n' Claws Aquaculture's stock of fishes at its farm north of Pulau Ubin, causing losses of 27 tonnes of sea bass, red snapper and pomfrets, and leaving only lobsters.

But 45-year-old owner Steven Suresh is far from giving up.

He has invested more than $1 million in a closed containment system which he hopes will not just make it cheaper to rear fish, but also prevent future blooms from affecting livestock.

The new system, developed by the firm's 46-year-old aquaculture expert G. Prabhagar, works by pumping seawater into containers floating on the sea, after passing through a UV filter which kills plankton and bacteria. This way, the fish in the containers will be unaffected by plankton bloom.

Fish waste is also pumped out of the containers into the sea below, to feed the lobsters in nets.

The floating platform is largely made of galvanised metal, supported by polyethylene floats filled with compressed styrofoam, which makes it very sturdy.

It cost over $1 million to build, but Mr Suresh believes it is necessary to maintain the weight of the containers, which can contain up to 10 tonnes of water.

Mr Suresh, who started fish farming after he got a diploma in aquaculture from the University of Edinburgh in 2009, also owns farms in Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

The container system has been tested on its offshore farm in Malaysia, but this is the first time it will be done in the sea.

The original plan had been to roll it out at the end of the year, but this has been bumped to May, due to the mass fish deaths.

Each container will cost $50,000 to set up, and Mr Suresh hopes to have six containers at his Ubin kelong in two months' time.

Although it is pricey, he believes it will reduce the cost of feeding the fish by a fifth and cut mortality rates, saving money in the long run.

He intends to share the technology with other farmers, saying: "At the end of the day, we are all working together to produce food for Singapore."

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