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“Aquaculture is a long journey, not a short one.”
Apollo Aquaculture Group (AAG)
Originally trained as an engineer — and with decades of knowledge in the fields of life sciences, electronics and automotive R&D — Mr Lucky Phua found himself putting his vast experience to good use when he joined Apollo Aquaculture Group.
In 2014, AAG was delving into expanding their business from rearing ornamental fish into food fish farming. Struck by the passion and grit of AAG’s CEO — Mr Eric Ng — Lucky joined the company. Their vast experience across multiple domains have brought AAG from strength to strength, with the company building Singapore’s first vertical fish farming system in 2015.
Lucky gives his no-holds-barred opinion on what it takes to be a fish farmer.
I met a number of intelligent professors and scientists in my previous jobs. But the question that I had in my mind was ‘who’s going to farm?’
To me, Eric has all the elements [of an amazing leader]. Aquaculture requires both passion and experience, and Eric has been working with fish since his childhood. He can tell me what’s wrong with the water in a pond just by looking at its colour.
There’s a difference between studying fish and farming fish.
A lot of times, I’m putting his concepts into numbers and developing the vision for the company together with him. Throughout the past four to five years, our farming model has become a lot more sophisticated and the vision has become clearer.
When fish are sick, they aren’t going to wait for you to tend to them — They aren’t going to press an alarm button.
The trees in a plantation would have about 2 weeks to react if something wasn’t right. But for fish, there are tell-tale signs that you have to react to quickly at every stage. The team that cares for the fish needs passion, and it’s not just a 9-5 job.
Discipline — Passion is one thing, but you can’t suka suka (haphazardly) handle the fish because your girlfriend broke up with you! Aquaculture is a long journey, not a short one.
In terms of skills, going through a proper course certainly helps — knowing the fish’s physiology and behaviour is very useful.
“Fish farming has come a long way from kelongs in the hot sun,” Lucky shares. “Nowadays there’re a lot of factors to consider in the aquaculture industry.”
At AAG, Lucky’s scope of responsibilities lies primarily in communication and big picture thinking — both internally and externally. This involves liaising with government bodies and stakeholders, and working with the farm’s young team to keep their work aligned with the company’s plans for the future.
Lucky shares his thoughts on the importance and benefits of local farming, as well as AAG’s future plans.
Securing Singapore’s food sources for the future keeps Lucky passionate about aquaculture. Global warming and the recent COVID-19 epidemic have led to many nations’ looking out for their own citizens’ interests, making domestic food sources even more important in an increasingly volatile future. The urban nature of aquaculture makes it possible for farming to be done in the city.
In Lucky’s view, one of the benefits of eating locally-bred fish is that our farmers can pay close attention to the processes of nurturing them, thus making it safer for consumers.
AAG’s new eight-storey vertical farm costs $65 million to build, and will produce up to 2,700 tonnes of fish a year when it’s completed in 2023.
Nurturing the sea’s bounty in the heart of the city.
The farmers who help us eat better with fresh food.