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Land Based vs Sea Based Farms in Singapore

What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “fish farm”? If it’s an image of a kelong, you might be in for a surprise. Nowadays, fish farms are not only found by the sea - some are based on land! Singapore’s fish farms are also pretty modern, with many adopting high-tech and sustainable practices. Here’s a closer look at the two main types of fish farms in Singapore:

Sea-based fish farms

Singapore has around 110 fish culture farms, with most of them based along the sea. While you may imagine them as kelongs (traditional open net-cage culture with wooden frame structures floated by huge HDPE drums) in the middle of the sea, there are actually very few of those left, as the AVA stopped issuing new licences in the 1960s. That’s because kelongs were deemed as an unsustainable trade and the high maintenance costs also caused many to cease their business over the years. To ensure that we still have a local supply of fish, the government started encouraging aquaculture, resulting in the fish farms we have today.

Many of our sea-based farms are located around the coast, along the Straits of Johor. There are also some found within designated areas in the southern waters. These sea-based farms account for about 85% of our consumption of locally-sourced fish. Most of them produce fish that are popular in our everyday meals, such as grouper, sea bass and snapper.

These sea-based farms, however, are at the mercy of the environment and coastal human error. Over the last decade, these farms have struggled with harmful algae bloom (red tide)incidents, oil spills because of vessel collisions, and sometimes even the occasional low dissolved oxygen levels in the water. Also, as most farms share the same breeding waters in the same area, a farm’s stock problem (eg. disease that can be from a spoilt batch of fish feed) can spread very easily to another.

Land-based fish farms

The remaining 15% of locally-sourced fish are produced by 12 land-based fish farms in Singapore. There are 2 main types: open pond culture systems, and tank based.

Open pond culture systems are usually found near the coast, and it involves digging up the earth to create ponds, using water from the sea, irrigation canals, or plain rain water.

Having no filtration system, uneaten food and fish waste get washed back into the sea.

Tank based fish farms are located entirely on land, and the fish are kept in giant tanks. You may think, “Huh, can meh?”, but the fact is that technology has led us to not only be able to farm fish in tanks, but also help them stay healthy and fit for consumption.

For example, at Atlas Aquaculture, the technology we use collects data from the fish so that we can better optimise their health and living conditions. We use high-quality feed from Japan and Taiwan, with no chemicals, hormones, GMO or drugs involved in any way. If there’s any fish feeling down, our animal behaviour specialists will swoop in to take care of them too!

Even though land-based and sea-based fish farms look very different, both are able to produce healthy and delicious fish. Besides the quality of the fish produced, many farms - including us - are looking at ways to be more environmentally sustainable too.

At Atlas Aquaculture, our closed-loop recycling system helps us do so. The system allows us to recycle and reuse over 95% of our water, so that we don’t have to rely on seawater. This means we don’t cart in water from the sea, nor do we dump dirty water back into the ocean. In fact, we barely dump anything at all - we try to recycle our waste or reuse them as fertiliser instead.

Aside from the water, we want to lower our carbon footprint in other ways too. For instance, we hope to one day use solar power as our main source of energy and drive only electric vehicles. We also try our best to minimise the amount of materials in our packaging to prevent excessive waste. In the meantime, we are sourcing for packaging that generates the lowest carbon footprint without compromising on food safety.

As we grow as a farm, we are constantly seeking ways to improve and be more sustainable. Here’s our commitment to being a more environmentally sustainable farm.

To find out more about us, check out our story as well as our cutting-edge water technology!


Sea-based Farm image: Photo by justhavealook on istock

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