SPEECH BY DR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT MAC’s 20TH ANNIVERSARY SYMPOSIUM ON 14 AUGUST 2023
Representatives from the industry and academia
Esteemed members of the aquaculture community
Ladies and gentlemen
1 Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you to celebrate this momentous occasion – the 20th anniversary of the Singapore Food Agency’s Marine Aquaculture Centre, or MAC.
2 MAC was set up on St John’s Island back in 2003, with the key role of advancing marine aquaculture in Singapore. Over the past two decades, MAC has done a tremendous job in transforming our aquaculture landscape.
3 This is important as the local aquaculture sector is critical for us to achieve the “30 by 30” goal – to build our agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to sustainably produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. Seafood is a priority area for our agri-food sector, as it is a good source of protein which we can efficiently and sustainably produce.
MAC’s Key Achievements
4 Since the beginning, MAC has made invaluable contributions to the development of the local aquaculture industry. Let me name a few:
a. To ensure long-term sustainable supply of marine fish fry, MAC has undertaken research in indoor hatchery production technology and transformed local hatchery production. Previously, our farms required a large space for an extensive outdoor pond system, which is also vulnerable to weather and climate changes. Today, we use an intensive indoor closed-containment system for large-scale fry production in a smaller space. As land and sea space are limited in Singapore and there are also other competing needs, this not only overcomes our space limitations, but also offers better bio-security measures to minimise diseases and waste discharge. More recently in 2021, MAC assisted in the set-up of a new floating indoor hatchery at local farm, Singapore Aquaculture Technologies, by advising on hatchery system design, development of hatchery protocols, and on-site training of the farm staff.
b. In advancing genetics and brood stock development, MAC through its partnership with Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL), successfully developed genetically superior Asian seabass lines that can produce seabass fry which grow at least 30 per cent faster. Such selective breeding programmes are important in enhancing the overall quality of fish farmed in Singapore.
c. In collaboration with GovTech, MAC also developed an artificial intelligence (AI) and image recognition technology to automate the counting of rotifers, a small zoo-plankton critical for marine fish larvae. This automation significantly reduced the time needed for counting rotifer density from 40 minutes to 1 minute. MAC is currently working with GovTech to deploy this technology on Telegram to enable our local hatcheries and farms to adopt this technology easily.
5 These are just a handful of the many notable contributions by MAC over the past two decades, and we can expect more to come as we focus our efforts on uplifting the local aquaculture sector with the Singapore Aquaculture Plan or SAP.
MAC’s Crucial Role in the Singapore Aquaculture Plan and AquaPolis
6 The SAP was developed last year to transform the aquaculture sector to become more productive and sustainable. It seeks to transform the sector in three key ways: increasing and optimising spaces for farming; investing in research and innovation; and, helping the industry to adopt technology and better farming practices.
7 At the heart of the SAP is the AquaPolis, an aquaculture research development programme introduced last year to support Singapore’s ambition of becoming a leading research and innovation hub for sustainable tropical aquaculture. AquaPolis brings the industry and scientists together to develop solutions to real challenges faced by our farms so as to enhance their productivity and quality of fish.
8 Naturally, MAC will serve as the research nucleus of AquaPolis. To cater to MAC’s increased R&D needs, we will enhance the centre’s facilities. Some of the new features include recirculating aquaculture systems for research and the SFA-INVE Hatchery Technology Centre for developing advanced hatchery technologies. As part of longer-term planning to support the aquaculture sector, SFA is commissioning a study to review how our research facilities could be developed and integrated with other aquaculture infrastructure such as jetties and hatcheries in the future. At the same time, MAC will work closely with the industry to better understand the impact of aquaculture on the environment, and how we can steadily grow our commercial aquaculture sector while protecting our marine ecosystem.
Stewarding a More Productive and Sustainable Aquaculture Sector
9 The next phase of MAC’s development will see it take on an even more significant role in the international aquaculture scene. We envision MAC as a hub for collaboration and knowledge exchange, where we can share our expertise with the global community and learn from best practices worldwide.
10 As with all that we do at MSE, sustainability is at the core of MAC’s work and we will lead by example in promoting responsible and eco-friendly aquaculture practices. By implementing stringent measures to safeguard our marine ecosystems, we ensure the long-term viability of the sector and protect our valuable natural resources for generations to come. MAC will continue to help local farms adopt sustainable farming practices and technology. This commitment to sustainability will extend beyond the confines of MAC and will encompass partnerships with industry stakeholders, research institutions, and other government agencies. Together, we will forge a path that integrates technological innovation, environmental stewardship, and economic growth.
11 I call upon all of you, members of the aquaculture community, to partner us in shaping a vibrant and sustainable future for our marine sector. While we are committed to facilitating industry transformation towards our food security goal, we need all hands on deck. Our farms play an important role in this journey, by leveraging technology to be more climate-resilient, sustainable and productive. Through our collective efforts and with each of us - the government, industry, research community and even consumers - playing our part, I am confident that we can uplift our local aquaculture industry and bolster Singapore’s food security.
12 As we commemorate MAC’s 20th anniversary today, I would like to thank all past and present MAC officers for their exceptional dedication and achievements over the past two decades. I also want to thank and acknowledge our local academia, research and industry partners for their unwavering commitment and support. Let us continue to build on these successes and pave the way to a thriving and sustainable aquaculture industry to secure our food future for many generations to come.
13 I look forward to the series of exciting presentations by our keynote speakers and the discussions amongst the aquaculture community today. I wish everyone a fruitful and enjoyable symposium.