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AVA seeks ideas for better farming systems

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SINGAPORE — After February’s mass fish deaths, which has left some fish farms still reeling from the losses, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will be calling for proposals on better farming systems to help fish farmers withstand adverse environmental factors.

Speaking at the opening of Lorong Halus Jetty yesterday, Minister of State (National Development and Defence) Mohamad Maliki Osman said the AVA has received S$1.25 million from the Co-Innovation Partnership, which encourages companies to develop innovative solutions with the Government, to come up with a sea-based farming system that would be more sustainable.

With the funding, the AVA will work with fish farms and related companies to develop a closed containment aquaculture system, said Dr Maliki.

Such a system would help fish farms here mitigate against adverse environmental conditions, he added. The episode in February had left about 160 tonnes of fish dead in farms in the East and West Johor Straits.

The AVA is requesting for proposals at the end of next month.

Giving an update about the AVA’s assistance package to help farmers who had lost their fish stocks, Dr Maliki said almost all the affected farms had taken up the package and more than 90 per cent are in the process of restocking their farms.

The funding support, which was to have ended next month, will be extended until December, as some fish farmers have asked for more time to purchase fry and equipment, said Dr Maliki.

This would, hopefully, help farmers to resume normal production levels by early next year, he said.

Dr Maliki also urged fish farms to embrace technology, automation and the upgrading of farming systems.

During his visit to the Netherlands and Denmark last month, Dr Maliki visited two land-based fish farms that used Recirculating Aquaculture Systems for fish culture in controlled indoor environments. With those, he said, farms were able to grow fish on limited land and water supply and they were protected against adverse environmental conditions.

The S$3.85 million Lorong Halus Jetty, about the size of half a football field, will act as a new landing facility that is close to fish farming zones in the eastern Johor Straits.

Currently, 63 of 117 coastal fish farms operate in the eastern Straits of Johor with Changi Creek and Senoko Fishery Port, which are the only two approved landing points.

The new jetty will include facilities, such as a floating jetty platform, where up to 28 vessels can berth, and a refuse collection centre for farmers.

During its first three months of operations, farmers will be able to use the jetty without having to pay any fees. AVA officers will monitor its usage and gather feedback to improve the jetty’s operations, said Dr Maliki.

Farmers whom TODAY spoke to welcomed the new facility.

Mr Timothy Ng, president of Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, described it as a “purpose-built facility” and said unlike Changi Creek, which farmers used mostly in the afternoons, farmers could use the new jetty even at other times.

Long waits were also common at Changi Creek, said director of Marine Life Aquaculture Loh Tee Wee, who usually waited at least an half hour each time as the landing point would be overcrowded.

As for chief operating officer of Marine Life Aquaculture Frank Tan, the new jetty would shave about 20 minutes off his usually travelling time.

At the moment, he pays close to S$400 a month for waste disposal services, to use the facilities at Changi Creek and to berth his boats at Marina Country Club.

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