July 2, 2019

Singapore's aquaculture centre to work with other players in joint research


The Aquaculture Innovation Centre (AIC), Singapore's 10th centre of innovation, has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with government and government-linked agencies and academic institutions in the city-state in late-June, The Straits Times reported.

The AIC is the first of its kind in Singapore to be run as a consortium. This mode of operation would allow players from both academia and private sectors to jointly research and strengthen the aquaculture industry.

The centre will focus on driving research and development, innovation partnerships and training in nutrition, disease management and the breeding of superfish. In addition, one example of the AIC's partnerships will involve food and beverage outlets providing food waste that can recycled as fish feed.

"Our strong innovation ecosystem, robust intellectual property and standards framework, as well as our pro-business environment, puts Singapore in an excellent position to become a leading player in the urban agriculture and aquaculture industry," Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, who launched the AIC at Temasek Polytechnic, said.

Dr. Lee Chee Wee, AIC's centre director, hopes that the facility will attract participants from various sectors outside aquaculture to help enhance capabilities in high-tech marine farming.

"Sectors from engineering to information technology to pharmaceuticals can work together with us," Dr. Lee said. According to the director, the AIC will look into optimising nutrition for food fish in its first three years. High-quality fish and other seafood reared in a high-tech, intensive farm require high-quality nutrition.

"In urban fish farming, the environment is stressful for fishes because of high population density of fishes in a tank and space constraint that prevents them from swimming more freely. Singapore is scarce in land and water," Dr. Lee explained.

"In such an environment, the fishes' feed and nutrition requirements are different. Feed used in traditional fish farms will not work."

Together with neighbouring unit, the Centre for Aquaculture and Veterinary Science, the AIC will attempt to develop optimal food pellets for fish, shrimps and crabs, among other marine animals. The centre also has a feed-producing facility.

By putting on trial different batches of in-house food pellets, researchers will observe the marine animals' growth and digestion patterns to create the most nutritionally optimal feed for them.

"Once we've settled nutrition, we can look into fighting diseases and selecting genetic traits to rear fast-growing fishes. This is because some diseases will not affect fishes if they are well-fed and healthy to begin with," Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Diana Chan, head of the Centre for Aquaculture and Veterinary Science, added: "Our milkfish now takes about 15 to 18 months to grow to just 500g. Hence, we need to formulate our feed to optimise harvests."

Singapore is seeking to locally grow 30% of its food needs by 2030. Only 9% of the country's fish consumption is now produced locally, said Dr. Koh.

Meanwhile, the AIC also inked two MOUs with the world's first aquaculture-focused accelerator, Hatch Blue, and seafood supply chain manager, Oceanus Group.

Hatch Blue will support the AIC's Aquaculture Innovation Challenge next year, which targets students and researchers in Singapore to develop solutions for problems in tropical aquaculture and may invest in promising innovations.

- The Straits Times