Meet Leow Ban Tat

CEO and Founder
ACE Farm®

While Ban Tat has always loved the sea, his journey in the world of aquaculture has not always been smooth sailing. 

Following a long and illustrious career in the oil and gas industry, where he specialised in marine engineering, the founder of ACE Farm® made his first foray into fish farming at the age of 60. When his apartment was put en bloc, Ban Tat ploughed the funds into building the first-ever Eco-Ark, a design that took him four years to design.  

With new horizons ahead and global patents on his innovative design, the visionary entrepreneur is working relentlessly towards his vision of farming locally while feeding the world.

Fish Farming for the Future

Ban Tat shares the lessons he’s learned as the founder of ACE Farm®, and the guiding principles that he adopts as a leader.  

How did you first get passionate about aquaculture? Image

How did you first get passionate about aquaculture?

You could say that loving the sea has always been in my blood. I’ve had a long career in marine engineering sailing around the world. When I was working at Keppel I’d look out at the sea every day, and now [as a farmer] I’m looking at my Ark, so that love certainly runs very deep.

Singapore’s red tide issue [in 2015] reinforced to me the importance of food security. At that time, I had co-authored a paper on closed containment systems with Dr Wang Chien Ming, and was committed to coming up with a solution for this problem.

What challenges did you face when you first founded ACE Farm®? Image

What challenges did you face when you first founded ACE Farm®?

It was quite an emotional experience—There were no takers willing to sink money into building the first Eco-Ark, as they felt that the technology was not proven.  Soon after I registered ACE Farm®, my house went on an en bloc sale. Although my wife wasn’t well at that time, she said yes when I asked to invest the money into Eco-Ark. 

I’m thankful for my family who have been so supportive. I have four children, and when the first Eco-Ark was built, my children said, “Congratulations dad, your fifth child has arrived.” They were overjoyed, but I felt a bit guilty because I had spent so much time working on it.

What personality traits should an entrepreneur possess to succeed in aquaculture? Image

What personality traits should an entrepreneur possess to succeed in aquaculture?

It’s guts and grit—Since I was a boy, I’ve always believed in going all-out to achieve what you’ve set out to accomplish. 

Whether you need to crawl under, scale over or go around obstacles, you need to be able to tackle them. This also ties in to how I perceive leadership. A leader needs to have a moral compass in terms of integrity, but also have the tenacity to see through tough decisions.

Do you partake in your own produce and how do you like it prepared? Image

Do you partake in your own produce and how do you like it prepared?

-Laughs-I love eating our grouper and red snapper. We have our own broth, so I prepare it with freshly sliced grouper. For the red snapper, I thaw it the day before, and when I get home from work, I wrap it in aluminium foil and add a bit of butter. It’s so tasty!

A Day in the Life

“Time management and how you allocate it is important” Ban Tat shares. “I’m usually up until 1am, and then up and running at 6’o clock—it’s a schedule that requires a lot of coffee!”

To deal with his gruelling schedule and the intense workload of being the founder of ACE Farm®, Ban Tat has structured his day in a way that allows him to optimise his efficiency. He segments his day into three periods, with the most important business attended to in the morning, and less pressing issues scheduled during the later parts of the day and evening.

Food for thought

Ban Tat gives his insights into the challenges of leadership, his system of planning and the bright future of local fish farming.

Perseverance and purity

ACE Farm® ran into an initial challenge of fish health with the farm’s first batch of fingerlings. While Ban Tat was tempted to use antibiotics on his fish during this period, he persisted in his vision of nurturing his fish free of chemicals and antibiotics.

“We suffered a lot of losses, but I decided that the antibiotics wouldn’t treat them, he shares. “I believe that the issue wasn’t our water—which was clean— but the fish mortality stemmed from innate disease and biosecurity issues from the hatchery. Our Eco-Spark® hatchery will stop this issue in the future.”

The 80/20 principle of planning

In Ban Tat’s opinion, 80% of success hinges on comprehensive planning, while the other 20% stems from execution. This has allowed him to run ACE Farm® without having too many major surprises or contingencies.

“When you’re coming up with a plan, it can’t be too convoluted,” Ban Tat explains. “I usually try to encapsulate everything in 3 concepts or steps. I believe if you want to communicate a concept, you can boil it down to 3 points and you’ll never forget.”

Tasting the difference in locally-farmed fish

In Ban Tat’s view, many Singaporeans are beginning to discern the difference in quality and taste of locally-farmed fish. In the same way that wagyu beef is famous across the globe, he firmly believes that fish farmed in Singapore will be recognised for its stellar quality. He believes that the farm’s certification of two stars under the Good Agricultural Practice certification scheme will encourage potential customers to sample their fresh fish, and taste the difference for themselves.

Taste the freshness of Eco Ark’s bounty for yourself by placing an order on the ACE Fish Market’s website, or visiting their store at Blk 71 Circuit Road #01-27. 

ACE Farm®

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