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“I’ve always been inspired by problem solving.‘’
Blue Ocean Aquaculture Technology (BOAT)
Since he was a boy, Ng Yiak Say has had a fascination with the ocean. In 2012, the engineering veteran got the opportunity to dive into the world of fish farming, after selling his factory in Suzhou and making a brand-new start in the world of aquaculture.
After spending five years of rigorous research, Yiak Say set up Blue Ocean Aquaculture Technology (BOAT), a factory-based industrialised farming system that employs the latest aquaculture innovations. The farm now supplies some of Singapore’s most iconic restaurant groups with the sea’s bounty — nurtured and grown indoors.
Yiak Say shares insights on how he keeps his fish farm afloat and thriving.
It was mostly technical curiosity, and the notion of applying engineering knowledge to other fields.
I read about mass mortality problems and red tide [plankton bloom] problems affecting fish farmers, and thought I could play a part in helping to overcome these uncertainties.
There was very little data to depend on, and it was very scattered, which meant I had to conduct my own research and put together a working system over five years.
There was a lot of trial and error required. Before we moved into this factory, I was literally farming in my backyard! We tried to automate the systems and because we were one water sensor short, a tank overflowed in the middle of the night. -Laughs- Me, my wife and my two children had to save over 200 sea bass!
You can’t be the only person fighting a war — If you try to do it all by yourself, you tend to have blind spot, so you’ve got to be willing to take feedback. My family and friends have been very supportive.
Besides that, you need a never say die attitude. Every farmer runs into problems, but I think success is very much based on perseverance.
My background in engineering equipped me with a knowledge of systems design. This helped me form an efficient farming system — linking components, pipes and sensors, and ensuring the latter could be manually overwritten in emergencies. Engineering solutions can greatly aid fish farming!
I recently completed a diploma in aquaculture from Temasek Polytechnic to shore up my knowledge on fish diseases, vaccinations, reproduction, fish farm management, feed formulation and various other elements.
“I manage BOAT singlehandedly, so knowledge is crucial,” Yiak Say shares. “Even something as ‘simple’ as transporting a fish requires knowledge especially when it is big.’
Besides keeping his eye on big picture developments and strategy, most of Yiak Say’s day is spent on ensuring that operations run smoothly. This includes overseeing daily deliveries to their clients, or helping his staff to grade and sort the fish. Many of BOAT’s systems are automated, which makes processes like feeding and maintenance less manpower-intensive.
Yiak Say divulges his thoughts on the complexities of fish farming and the future of aquaculture in Singapore.
In Yiak Say’s words, “you can’t rush nature”. Being patient and observing the complexities of how fish behave — instead of applying rote textbook methodology — is key to a successful harvest, and avoids issues like overfeeding.
When it comes to aquaculture, Yiak Say believes that one should look beyond the economy and GDP. Rather than looking at aquaculture from an economic approach, one should also think of fish farming as a defensive strategy and a key part of food sustainability.
While aquaculture is steeped in tradition, Yiak Say sees it as an industry that’s ready to embrace exciting new methods. Young people looking for a bright future in aquaculture should come into farming with an open mind, and bring their talents to the fore.
Taste BOAT’s bounty of seafood for yourself by placing an order on their website or RedMart.
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