Keynote Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at World Aquaculture Singapore 2022, on 30 November 2022
Dr Matthias Halwart, Head of the Aquaculture Branch of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division
Dr Jennifer Blair, President of the World Aquaculture Society
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of the Singapore Food Agency
Mr Teo Ming Kian, Chairman of the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good morning to all. It is my pleasure to welcome everyone to the World Aquaculture Singapore 2022. This is the first time that Singapore is hosting this major international aquaculture conference. A big welcome to all our international delegates. I hope that you will enjoy your time in Singapore.
Innovation and Technology as Enablers to Transform Aquaculture
2 Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of our food supplies. This means that we are vulnerable to food supply chain disruptions that could occur due to a variety of factors, such as climate change, geopolitical tensions, and disease outbreaks. For our food security, we have set a “30 by 30” goal to build the capabilities and capacity to sustainably produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. Given our resource and space constraints, we must find ways to grow more with less, in a highly productive, climate-resilient, and resource-efficient manner.
3 Singapore’s aquaculture sector plays a critical role in helping us achieve our 30 by 30 goal. We have identified seafood as our priority area as it is one of the more carbon and resource efficient food types, suitable for land scarce Singapore. We are uplifting the aquaculture sector with the Singapore Aquaculture Plan (SAP) in three ways. First, we will find new spaces for aquaculture. Second, we will transform the industry with technology and better farm practices. And third, we will invest in research and innovation for sustainable tropical aquaculture.
4 The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has committed S$60 million to the Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund to co-fund the adoption, test-bedding, and development of productive, resource-efficient, and sustainable farming technologies and systems. This includes technologies and systems that help farms make predictive and informed decisions in optimising resources and increasing productivity. Singapore Aquaculture Technologies, a sea-based closed-containment aquaculture farm, is one such company that has received SFA’s support. It uses artificial intelligence, sensors, and camera systems to determine fish size, monitor behaviour, and detect feeding patterns. This allows the operator to adjust the quantity of the feed for optimal feeding and detect diseases early.
5 The Government has also committed S$300 million under the Singapore Food Story R&D programme to drive research into sustainable urban food solutions, future foods, and food safety science and innovation.
6 An example is the collaboration between Republic Polytechnic (RP) and The Fish Farmer in the study of the genetics of the red snapper species. The team is developing a selective breeding programme with industry to improve the growth rate and colouration of the species. This will enhance the technical capabilities of our farmers in farming red snappers, such as in managing marine parasites and diseases more effectively. To foster industry collaboration, The Fish Farmer will hold the brood stock of genetically selected red snapper, and supply the fingerlings to other local farms, lifting the quality of red snapper farmed in Singapore.
Becoming the Aquaculture Research & Innovation Hub of Asia
7 Singapore aspires to be a centre for aquaculture research and innovation. We are building a vibrant aquaculture ecosystem that will facilitate close research-industry partnership in the creation of solutions and sharing of knowledge. This will be supported by strong research and development infrastructure and capabilities. We will be creating “AquaPolis” – a new Research and Innovation Cluster for Tropical Marine Aquaculture jointly led by SFA, the National University of Singapore, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, and industry partners.
8 AquaPolis will cultivate a thriving industry workforce. It will bring local and overseas aquaculture researchers, and industry players together to innovate and develop sustainable solutions. The partners of AquaPolis will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding today, marking their commitment to growing an aquaculture industry for Singapore.
9 The nucleus of the AquaPolis will be SFA’s Marine Aquaculture Centre (MAC) at St John’s Island. Through this initiative, we expect the cluster to collaborate actively with multiple Institutes of Higher Learning and Research Institutes.
Integrating Sustainability into the Heart of Aquaculture
10 Environmental, resource and economic sustainability drive our plans for the aquaculture sector. As Global Warming causes changing and extreme weather patterns, environmental challenges will impact the capability and capacity of food production. Warmer waters could lead to higher level of pathogens in the water, higher incidences of disease, and higher mortality of fish. It is thus important that we take a fundamental review of the way we produce food and embrace sustainable food production.
11 At the macro level, we will consider the potential impact of aquaculture on the environment when planning for the sea space. As we look to expand fish farming in the Southern Waters, we have conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment for that area. The assessment includes sizing the biomass that can be sustainably produced and recommending mitigation measures to minimize impacts on our precious resource. We are working closely with the industry, nature groups and the marine biodiversity academics as we unlock new spaces for sustainable aquaculture.
12 For good aquacultural practices, we have developed guidelines and best practices that promote environmental and resource sustainability in farm management. I am pleased to launch the Singapore Standard: Specification for Clean and Green Urban Farms for Aquaculture today. This Standard was jointly developed by SFA and Enterprise Singapore, together with the industry, retailers, and Institutes of Higher Learning under the purview of Singapore Standard Council. The aim is to guide local aquaculture farms to produce food in a clean, safe, and resource efficient manner, through the adoption of smart farming techniques, reducing farm waste, conserving resources, incorporating circularity, and raising operational efficiency. Good farming practices will reduce operational costs and provide assurance of sustainable production to consumers.
13 In the long run, businesses that place environmental and resource sustainability at the core of their business decisions will see a positive impact on productivity and business resilience. This will mean economic sustainability for the businesses. Our aquaculture industry needs to be far-sighted, future-ready to stay relevant and sustainable. Farms need to develop the market for local produce to increase revenue, drive down operation costs, and develop new lines of business such as value-added products, innovative farming products and services, and quality inputs like fingerlings and feed.
14 Farms should look upstream and leverage on SFA’s Marine Aquaculture Centre or the wider research community to improve fish genetics, nutrition, and health. Farms should also collaborate with each other and enjoy economies of scale and increase offtake through aggregation. By transforming and scaling up together, the industry can become more resilient. We can leverage on our relative strengths to collectively develop a unique position for ourselves as a living lab for sustainable tropical aquaculture solutions with global export potential.
15 With environmental, resource and economic sustainability anchoring our agri-food industry, we can effectively contribute to the 30 by 30 goal, and over time, the long-term security of our food supply. This is a journey that requires collective will and action of the industry players, support from consumers for our local produce, with the support of the Government. With a vibrant ecosystem and healthy consumer demand, I am confident that we can make good progress towards our 30 by 30 goal and co-create a sustainable food future for Singapore.
16 Let me conclude. Food security is an existential issue that requires partnership among the international community, governments, and the industry. It requires us to develop a more sustainable and progressive agri-food landscape. I encourage active collaboration between the experts gathered here, and between the experts and our practicing aquaculture community in forging new ideas and knowledge. This will pave the way for new partnerships that will benefit the growth of our nascent aquaculture industry. We have much to learn from one another. I look forward to the new ideas and partnerships that will emerge from this conference. I wish all of you a fruitful conference.
17 Thank you.