Self-sustaining 'future food city' likely to be off coast of Singapore

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Aquapolis Cityrequires minimal manpower with the use of IoT and AI. ©Oceanus
Aquapolis Cityrequires minimal manpower with the use of IoT and AI. ©Oceanus
A self-sustaining ‘future food city’, featuring a mixed crop cultivation of vegetables, seaweed and fish, could be established off the coast of Singapore.

Oceanus Group Ltd has been in talks with Singapore government entities on the likelihood of the new self-sustainable Oceanus Aquapolis City being located there.

Recently, Oceanus, Shaw Investment Holdings Pte Ltd and China Construction Seventh Engineering Division Corp Ltd (CSCEC7) announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on global aquaculture-related investments and development projects worth US$500m.

“Food security is increasingly a key concern for many governments around the world. With our expertise in aquaculture, China Construction’s deep knowledge in construction and infrastructure and Shaw’s proven track record in investments, we believe this tripartite collaboration is well-positioned to capitalise on the bourgeoning aquaculture opportunities globally,”​ Peter Koh, executive director and CEO of Oceanus Group had said.

Part of this agreement is the development of the proposed Oceanus Aquapolis City, a sea-based high-tech aquaponics farm that will integrate the farming with renewable technology and sustainable resources such as rainwater collection and solar energy.

The recent discussions have been with government bodies such as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise SG.

Daphne Lin, Operations, Oceanus, said the government has to be invested in such a project due to its scale and scope, as well as that they are “asking for a space in the sea off Singapore”​.

Should the points of discussion be confirmed, the Oceanus Aquapolis City will be located offshore in the South of the island.

Furthermore, Duane Ho, CFO, Oceanus Group, said that the firm is currently conducting feasibility studies for the project, in Singapore and other countries in the region such as Brunei and China.

Sustainability urgent

A projection by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) for the period between 2017 and 2026 states that global aquaculture production is set to exceed the 100-million-tonne mark for the first time in 2025, and to reach 102 million tonnes by 2026.

According to the FAO, aquaculture continues to be one of the fastest-growing food sectors and world fish consumption is expected to grow 19% by 2026.

Ho added that wild-caught ocean fish for food will be depleted by 2050 and, in the last 10 years, fish supply has been depleted by about 90% in the South China Sea.

This growing global food security problem is also impacting Singapore.

Ho said the island nation imports 90% of its food supply and barely grows anything, let alone enough to sustain itself. He said, in order for the country to be sustainable, production needs to increase by 70%, and about 40% of land needs to be set aside for food production. This is improbable in land-scarce Singapore.

If the status quo remains, there is no real possibility of the country achieving self-sustainability.

Self-sustaining mixed-crop floating city

Enter Aquapolis City, where Oceanus engineers will deploy advanced farming techniques to create a self-sustaining future food city, featuring a mixed crop cultivation of vegetables, seaweed and fish.

“As one of the world’s largest land-based aquaculture farms, we have been incubating and exploring various farming and business models as well as cutting-edge ideas that we believe will shape the future of aquaculture, with a strong focus on food security,” ​said Koh.

Combining hydroponics and aquaculture farming technologies, the Oceanus Aquapolis City is an environmentally-friendly, multi-storey floating and closed-contained farming platform.

The project is highly scalable, portable, and more energy efficient than land-based farms. It also requires minimal manpower with the use of Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It further capitalises on unused sea space, becoming a solution to land-intensive farming.

According to the firm, the Oceanus Aquapolis City project will be worth several hundred millions of dollars. It is expected to be launched within five to seven years.

Oceanus Group is a global premium seafood value chain manager that harnesses synergies across the aquaculture value chain — farming (upstream), processing (mid-stream), distribution (downstream) and consultancy (R&D).

Ho said the firm has the largest land-based farm in Fotan, China, near Xiamen, where they primarily spawn abalone juveniles and premium seafood such as prawn.

CSCEC7, the largest construction company in the world by revenue, brings its experience in building, infrastructure, architecture and offshore, sea-based commercial building to the project.

“Together with China Construction (and Oceanus), we believe that this is the right time that we can work together on projects that will make a difference not just in Singapore but around the world,” ​said Ivan Lew, CEO of Shaw.

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