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First HDB container fish farm, size of bedroom in HDB flat, launched in Tampines

First HDB container fish farm, size of bedroom in HDB flat, launched in Tampines
The container fish farm is located in Tampines Street 11 next to the Tampines Round Market and Food Centre.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The Republic's first urban fish farm in a container was launched on Nov 19 as part of an initiative to support local urban farmers and help the country to reach its 30 by 30 food goal of producing 30 per cent of its food needs domestically by 2030.

The container fish farm is located in Tampines Street 11 next to the Tampines Round Market and Food Centre, and residents can look forward to enjoying the popular jade perch, a fish delicacy, after the first harvest in four to six months. 

Inside the shipping container set up close to Tampines Town Council are tanks housing jade perch that will be market-ready when they grow to about 500 to 600g.

The Tampines Round Market and Food Centre Merchants' Association will be collaborating with local fishmongers to sell the jade perch, which can fetch up to $38 per kg.

Fish will be sold to fishmongers at cost price for this community project.

Speaking at the launch, Social and Family Development Minister and Second Minister for Health Masagos Zulkifli, who is anchor minister for Tampines GRC, said: "The Tampines community is already showing strong support for the container fish farm project, not only from the residents but the businesses as well. We have received numerous applications from the public offering to assist with the container farm."

Mr Masagos officiated the launch along with three other Tampines GRC MPs - Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon, Mayor of North East District Desmond Choo and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and the Environment Baey Yam Keng.

He said that Tampines is actively supporting local farms' projects by identifying underutilised spaces where climate-resilient and resource-efficient urban farming methods can be tested and implemented.

Successful partnerships have resulted in projects like a tilapia fish farm in Tampines Park and a rooftop vegetable farm at a multi-storey carpark.

The two partners behind the container fish farm, aquaculture company Aqualita Ecotechnology and Tampines Town Council, are looking to gauge consumers' interest in fish grown in the container fish farm.

A spin-off company from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL), Aqualita engineered the containerised fish farm system with some components and technologies owned by TLL.

Aqualita is also looking to further understand the health of jade perch, particularly its nutritional needs, said the start-up's director of technology Goh Chin Heng.

In particular, the project aims to develop feed to hasten the growth of jade perch from six months to five months - or even one month.

Said Mr Goh: "Jade perch is actually an omnivore - not a carnivore or herbivore. But many farms are using carnivore feed for the fish, and they end up with… a lot of oil deposits in the abdominal region.

"Similar to humans, when we get fat, the fish can also become "obese", and may develop fatty liver that affects its health. Abdominal fat also adds to the weight of the fish, but it's something that will typically be thrown away during processing and end up in the waste bin."

Apart from jade perch, five other species of fish have been shortlisted for farming in this recirculating aquaculture system - barramundi, red snapper, hybrid grouper, tilapia and murray cod.

The maximum stocking density, or the highest number of fish that can be at any one time in the containerised fish farm, varies according to the species due to differences in behaviour.

For instance, if the same number of barramundi and groupers are housed in the tank, injuries like skin abrasions will be more common in the groupers.

This is because barramundi are more active swimmers than the groupers, raising the incidences of fighting in enclosed spaces, said Mr Goh, who holds a degree in zoology.

A recirculating aquaculture system, such as the one used in the Tampines container farm, reuses water to grow fish under controlled environmental conditions within 15 sq m.

About the size of a bedroom in a Housing Board flat, the container fish farm is 25 per cent more productive than traditional farming methods.

Beyond the efficient production of fresh fish, the containerised farm will offer other benefits for the community, such as creating employment opportunities or space for educational activities, Tampines Town Council and Aqualita said.

A part-time worker from Tampines has been recruited to work at the fish farm for two hours every day, but the container will be locked outside operational activities to ensure the security of the fish.

Apart from working with schools to explore the use of the container fish farm for educational activities, Aqualita and the Tampines Town Council are also working with People's Association to donate fish bento sets to welfare organisations in the area on a regular basis.

ALSO READ: 'Anyone who has eaten today should care about the food that we're eating': Climate changemakers delve into disruptive solutions for food security and carbon emissions in Singapore

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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