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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Naming and Commissioning Ceremony for the Eco-Ark

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Naming and Commissioning Ceremony for the Eco-Ark

Mr Ong Beng Ann, Chairman, Aquaculture Centre of Excellence Pte Ltd (ACE)

Mr Leow Ban Tat, CEO, ACE

Mr Lim Kok Thai, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Food Agency (SFA)

Distinguished guests,

1. Good morning. I am happy to join all of you here today for the Naming and Commissioning Ceremony for the Eco-Ark.  

2. At last year’s TechInnovation event, ACE showed me a 3D model of a purpose-built floating closed containment fish farm. I was told it would enable highly intensive fish farming in a sustainable manner, and would offer protection from adverse water and weather conditions.  

3. It is my pleasure to join you today in unveiling the Eco-Ark. This marks the translation of this innovative idea into reality. My congratulations to ACE, your team and partners for making this happen. 

4. Singapore imports more than 90% of our food. To strengthen our food security, ensure food supply resilience and mitigate against food supply disruptions, we need to boost our local food production. The Government has set a target to increase local production by 2030, to satisfy 30 percent of Singapore’s nutritional needs. This will require us to leverage on smart technologies and innovative solutions to produce more food in a sustainable manner.

5. We have thus set aside $144m for the Singapore Food Story Research & Development (R&D) programme, to support sustainable urban food production, the development of novel protein production and the promotion of food safety science. 

6. SFA will also support our farmers through the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) which was enhanced in 2018 to provide higher funding support for the adoption and development of new farming technologies and systems, as these require higher financial investment. 

7. A key pillar in our agri-food and tech industry is aquaculture. Aquaculture is one of the most efficient forms of animal protein food production and one of the fastest-growing food producing sectors. The aquaculture production of 80 million tonnes represents 47% of global fish production or about USD231 billion in sales in 2016.

8. Coastal aquaculture farms currently employ open net cage farming systems which makes them vulnerable to environmental threats. In 2014 and 2015, many of Singapore’s aquaculture farmers were affected by plankton blooms, which caused fish deaths. Many farmers lost their entire fish stock. There were also a number of oil spills and waste discharge incidents which adversely affected conditions for aquaculture. Further, with climate change leading to warmer waters, there would also be higher incidence of diseases and mortality of fish due to stress and increased levels of pathogens. All these conditions could limit the potential for aquaculture production. 

9. Besides vulnerability to external conditions, poor practices in conventional open farming systems can sometimes result in water pollution and can lead to a detrimental impact on marine biodiversity. 

10. The Eco-Ark is a good example of an innovative farming solution to address some of these challenges. Developed with support from SFA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund, the Eco-Ark combines Offshore & Marine Technology with a Recirculating Aquaculture System to filter and treat seawater, kill pathogens and reduce vulnerability to external conditions. Before discharging water back into the sea, solid waste is first removed, thus helping to mitigate the impact of farming on the environment.

11. I understand that SFA conducted a study to assess the sustainable carrying capacity of the existing aquaculture zones in the Straits of Johor. The study recommended adopting the use of new technologies such as closed-containment culture systems which would allow for greater fish production and reduce environmental impact to the water and sediment quality. This was what Eco-Ark was built to achieve. In fact, the Eco-Ark’s capability to produce 166 metric tons of fish annually, using about 1,400 square metre sea-space and with only two workers, is both manpower and space efficient. It is also well within the recommended carrying capacity of the area that Eco-Ark is currently located in. This would already be more than 20 times higher than the minimum production level set for Singapore coastal fish farms today. Eco-Ark allows us to conduct fish farming in Singapore waters more sustainably, and the solution can also be exported to other parts of the world. 

12. Just as I am heartened to know that ACE decided to pilot a fish farm of the future here in Singapore, I understand that ACE is not resting on its laurels and is already in the process of designing its next generation of floating closed containment fish farm for the deep sea. It is expected to yield even higher productivity, and at the same time remain environmentally friendly. I would like to commend ACE for its ambition to offer its fish produce and aquaculture solutions to Singapore and the rest of the world. 

13. Once again, congratulations to ACE and its partners for the successful construction of the Eco-Ark and I wish you every success. Thank you.

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