Leave aquaculture to the Norwegians, this Singaporean was told. Thankfully, he ignored the naysayers


SINGAPORE: As a younger man, he answered the name of the sea and went on to a globe-trotting marine engineering profession in the oil and gasoline business.

At the age of 60, Leow Ban Tat may have been comfortably retired.

Instead, he took the plunge in 2018 to pursue a brand new dream – that of feeding the plenty wholesome fish reared in a system insulated from the vagaries of the open sea.

“Our local farmers work very hard. I think they are very experienced,” he stated. But occasions like algal blooms, which might kill huge numbers of fish, depart offshore open-net fish farmers helpless.

Technology, he believes, can overcome these challenges and assist the sector produce high quality fish.

Leow, 64, started sketching his concepts from round 2014. Oil costs had plunged due to a provide glut. An oil and gasoline marketing consultant at the time, he thought: “Instead of grumbling about the downturn of the industry, why don’t I just use what I know… to create something new?”

Floating buildings had been what he knew nicely. Leow got here up with drawings of tanks on a buoyant construction for fish farming. He known as his design Eco-Ark and patented it in 2018.

That 12 months, his Chancery Court condo went en bloc, and Leow determined to take a leap of religion and plow the funds into this new enterprise.

“When I first started to tell investors that I’m going to build the first Eco-Ark, many of them were very apprehensive,” he stated. “They think that this will be a high-capex (capital expenditure) investment that is not proven.”

A good friend who used to be a farmer even instructed him to depart aquaculture to the Norwegians. “I quit this industry because it just cannot make money,” Leow recalled the good friend saying. “Your patent, you can just throw away.”

But Leow drew braveness from his spouse Amy and their 4 youngsters. She instructed him: “Maybe you should chase your dream. Don’t stop where you are.”

Today, the Aquaculture Centre of Excellence (ACE)’s Eco-Ark is anchored about 5km off Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Installed in October 2019, the 48m by 28m floating construction at present produces nearly 100 tonnes of barramundi (Asian sea bass), grouper and crimson snapper a 12 months.

At full capability, it might produce 166 tonnes of fish a 12 months, about 20 occasions that of a standard farm.


Eco-Ark is certainly one of the sea-based fish farms contributing to Singapore’s formidable ’30 by 30′ aim.

The nation goals to construct the agri-food business’s functionality and capability to produce 30 per cent of its dietary wants by 2030 – up from lower than 10 per cent at present – by ramping up its productiveness in methods which might be resource-optimal, climate-resilient, and sustainable each environmentally and commercially. 

The authorities believes fish is a nutritious supply of protein that the nation can produce sustainably, and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) goals to give the aquaculture business a leg-up by means of varied measures.

These embody the launch of latest sea area tenders in the southern waters and East Johor Straits from the finish of this 12 months, with lease tenures of 20+10 years that present larger certainty in order that farmers can plan and make investments for the long term, the company stated this month.

The SFA can be supporting the transformation of the aquaculture sector right into a extremely productive, climate-resilient and resource-efficient one which leverages expertise and acceptable farm administration strategies.

Interested farms can faucet its S$60-million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund launched final 12 months. It changed the Agriculture Productivity Fund which dedicated over S$50 million to 132 firms – together with Eco-Ark – from 2014 to 2021.

As of Dec 31 final 12 months, the company has obtained 23 functions for ACT funding. Eight have been accredited, whereas the relaxation are being processed and evaluated, the SFA stated.

The efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Last 12 months, Singapore’s fish farms produced 4,200 tonnes of fish, a rise of 33 per cent from a decade in the past.


The Eco-Ark, which price about S$4.1 million to construct, has been held up as a mannequin of innovation by authorities leaders.

Leow, ACE’s energetic chief government, enthuses about his imaginative and prescient of feeding as many individuals as potential. He is equally educated about how the farm’s water remedy and different applied sciences allow intensive manufacturing.

Seawater to be used for the fish tanks is filtered by means of drum filters, then ozonated to kill micro organism. Leow opted for ozone as a substitute of ultraviolet expertise to kill pathogens as a result of the latter “cannot cope with high volume flow”.

He believes that if water high quality is sweet, there is no such thing as a want to vaccinate or use antibiotics on the fish.

Besides being geared up with photo voltaic panels, the Eco-Ark can be extra energy-efficient than another closed-containment floating farms. According to Leow, the largest supply of vitality consumption for farms like his are the water pumps.

To minimize vitality consumption, he designed the fish tanks to be largely submerged as a substitute of sitting atop the floating construction. This means the pumps solely want to pump water to a decrease peak earlier than gravity causes the water to cascade down to be filtered, then injected with ozone. Clean water then cascades into the fish tanks.

He additionally ensures the water discharged from tanks again out into the sea are of the identical high quality or barely higher than what was taken in. Fish waste is eliminated, and the water is ozonated once more earlier than being launched.

Automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) allow duties corresponding to monitoring fish progress to be achieved with minimal labour. At anybody time, solely six workers are wanted to run all operations on board and they’re overseen by two farm technicians and an aquaculturist.

Another particular characteristic of the Eco-Ark is its on-board processing facility. The fish are processed – packed in ice or vacuum packed – mere metres from the place they’re harvested, then transported by way of a 10-minute boat experience to the mainland the place retail and company prospects await.


ACE opened a retail retailer in MacPherson in October 2021 and prospects have instructed Leow that his sea bass “do not have a muddy taste” and are “so good”.

“I’m so happy to see families coming down to use their CDC Vouchers (to buy) fish home,” he stated.

His work is much from achieved and enlargement plans, together with extra retail shops, are afoot.

ACE has two extra Eco-Arks on the approach that may take manufacturing to over 500 tonnes a 12 months. It additionally plans to preserve broodfish to produce eggs that may hatch and develop into fingerlings. “By so doing, we become completely self-sustaining, self-sufficient,” stated Leow.

While meals safety was not foremost in his thoughts when he launched into his enterprise – “I was just thinking about how I could produce more fish in a sustainable way” – he now says it’s “critically important” for Singapore.

What continues to drive him are ardour and his love for the sea.

“Being able to see the sunrise, to see the sunset everyday – sunrise gives new hope, sunset tells us there’s always another day,” he stated. “This new career is something I feel passionate about. I tell myself only one thing: Anyone who wants to succeed has to persevere.”

This article by CNA Insider was achieved in partnership with Singapore Food Agency. For extra on how Singapore’s meals future is being formed, go to: www.ourfoodfuture.gov.sg.

Leave aquaculture to the Norwegians, this Singaporean was told. Thankfully, he ignored the naysayers

Neo Chai Chin

Lam Shushan

Source : channelnewsasia.com

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