High-tech fish farms coming up in Lim Chu Kang

Multi-storey facilities, automated processes in the works following land tender award

Mr Eric Ng, owner of Apollo Aquarium, is relieved to have been sold the two land parcels, as the leases on his existing fish farms are expiring. He said that the new farm will be fully automated, and yield will go up.
Mr Eric Ng, owner of Apollo Aquarium, is relieved to have been sold the two land parcels, as the leases on his existing fish farms are expiring. He said that the new farm will be fully automated, and yield will go up. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Fish farmer Eric Ng will have to give up his two farms in Seletar and Lim Chu Kang when their leases expire in the next three years.

But, yesterday, he heaved a sigh of relief when news reached him that his company, Apollo Aquarium, had been awarded the tender for two sites that are nearly double the size of his existing farms.

"We were very anxious, and as a precaution, we took up a plot in Brunei in case we had to move out of Singapore," Mr Ng, 45, told The Straits Times.

Apollo Aquarium, along with Blue Aqua International, has been sold land in Lim Chu Kang for the farming of fish for human consumption, in a move to boost yield from the shrinking supply of farmland in Singapore.

Last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it would put out to tender 36 plots of farmland on 20-year leases in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah.

They will help fill the gap when the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang run out by end-2021 and the land is given over to military use.

While the new plots, which add up to 60ha of land, will not close the gap completely, the authorities hope the use of high-technology farming will boost productivity and yield.

The AVA, in announcing the award of the tender for three land parcels yesterday, said the two companies' proposals included productive and innovative farming systems such as multi-storey facilities with automated fish pumps and advanced water treatment processes.

The tender, which was launched on Oct 31 last year and closed on Jan 9, is the second tranche of AVA's tenders for new agriculture land.

The new sites for food fish farming were awarded under a fixed-price tender system.

This means that instead of competing on price, the tenders were evaluated on such factors as production capacity, track record and whether the companies can harness innovation to improve and sustain production.

Blue Aqua and Apollo Aquarium were each sold a plot of 15,575 sq m at the fixed sale price of $378,000. Apollo Aquarium's second plot of 23,961 sq m was sold for $587,000.

Mr Ng said that while his existing food fish farm in Lim Chu Kang is stacked three tanks high, the new farm is set to have an eight-tier system that, at full capacity, would raise his current annual yield of 110 tonnes to about 2,000 tonnes.

"It will be fully automated... we can monitor the entire farming system remotely. Before, we relied on experience, but now we depend more on technology," he said.

Dr Farshad Shishehchian, chief executive of Blue Aqua International group, which has 14 companies around the world, said the new farm, its first fish farm in Singapore, will rear tilapia, pompano and garoupa.

Using its patented intensive farming system, the company, which also has a shrimp farm in Lim Chu Kang, hopes to produce about 500 tonnes of fish and 200 tonnes of shrimp a year.

AVA's food supply resilience group director Melvin Chow said the farming technologies proposed by the companies have the potential to raise the agricultural sector's productivity and reduce its reliance on labour.

"Over time, this will strengthen our local farming ecosystem and spur transformation to bolster Singapore's food security," he added.

Local farms produce about 10 per cent of Singapore's fish supply, and the AVA aims to raise this to 15 per cent, with new technologies increasing the productivity of fish farming systems by at least three times, said its spokesman.

The AVA will launch two more tranches of new agricultural land for food and non-food farming in June, the spokesman added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline High-tech fish farms coming up in Lim Chu Kang. Subscribe