Out of the sea, into the farm

Out of the sea, into the farm
Dr Dirk Eichelberger (left) and Dr Michael Voigtmann with their closed-container system that kept their fish safe. Their company Singapore Aquaculture Technologies farm near Pulau Ubin uses closed containment systems for some of their fishes, and most of the fishes kept in the closed containment system survive the recent recent mass fish death.

Fish farmers are now divided about the future of their industry, after the recent mass fish deaths.

This new technology which lets them rear fish in a controlled environment may just be what the industry needs to improve the sustainability and productivity of fish farming.

Some farmers are considering a closed containment aquaculture system (CAS) in which fish are grown in tanks instead of in open net sea cages.

The Fish Farmer, which rears and markets seafood, is one of the companies that is putting in such a system.

It is building 10 tanks, which will take around six months to complete, to rear fish.

Mr Malcolm Ong, CEO of the The Fish Farmer, told The New Paper that he would still prefer to rear fish in a natural environment, but the plankton bloom was so severe this year that it has forced him to re-look their farming system.

Blue Ocean Harvest director Jeyel Loh Joo Leng, who lost 16 tonnes of fish this year, agrees that a change is necessary.

"Given a choice, we would do an open net sea cage but we need to do something about our farming," he said.

MUDDY TASTE

Not all fish farmers are convinced about the new technology.

Mr Bryan Ang, creative and marketing manager from Ah Hua Kelong, said: "We are thinking of close containment farming for small fishes below three months old... but after that we will release them to open net sea cage farming because closed containment fishes tend to have a 'muddy taste'."

The tanks for the CAS range from a capacity of five cubic metres to 20 cubic metres. But CAS does not come cheap. It costs $12,500 to implement the technology in the smallest tank size, which can take 10,000 small fish weighing 20gm each.

"The future of fish farming is one where the parameters can be controlled. Farming can't be based any more on traditional net cages. There are too many uncertainties," said Dr Michael Voigtmann from Singapore Aquaculture Technologies, one of the companies that build CAS.

But he acknowledged that the older generation especially, may have a harder time adapting to this technology.


This article was first published on April 7, 2015.
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