At Sea

More B&W film photos of the kelong here.

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At Sea tells the story of a group of young Singaporeans who have chosen fish farming as their career – an unorthodox, unseen and necessary profession. In Singapore, where success is determined largely by financial and (societally determined) professional status, becoming a fish farmer achieves neither. Farming has a history of being stigmatised, and then promoted again, lately, albeit only in incredibly mechanised, technological forms that remove the human element from its practice. At Sea follows the workers of OnHand Agrarian, which aims to rear fish and bivalves in environments that replicate their natural ecosystems, and recirculate inputs and outputs to achieve a closed-loop system. At this time and place, in light of the many links that have been drawn between climate change and environmental problems, and industrial agriculture, carbon emissions arising from huge quantities of food traded, (as a result of globalising tastes and preferences etc.), there is a need to highlight alternative forms of agriculture, and those who pursue it, to present alternatives to a country (and the world) that prioritises only economic development and technological efficiency over sustainable solutions that connect people to the environment.

Shannon Lim is a financial planner-turned-fish farmer. As Founder and Director of OnHand Agrarian, he designs Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Systems (IMTRAS), which replicate the balanced ecosystems that are found in the wild.

Shannon Lim is a financial planner-turned-fish farmer. As Founder and Director of OnHand Agrarian, he designs Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Systems (IMTRAS), which replicate the balanced ecosystems that are found in the wild.

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OnHand Agrarian operates on farm plot FC112E, off the northeast coast of Singapore, and sits in front of Pulau Ketam and Pulau Ubin. In the background, other local farmers are lowering their lines into the water.

OnHand Agrarian operates on farm plot FC112E, off the northeast coast of Singapore, and sits in front of Pulau Ketam and Pulau Ubin. In the background, other local farmers are lowering their lines into the water.

Marcus is one of OnHand's youngest employees - he is waiting at Lorong Halus jetty in the early hours of the morning to catch a ride out with a neighbouring farmer. A fresh liberal arts graduate from Yale-NUS College, he joined the company after a three month stint WWOOF-ing stint in Japan, where he worked on farms across the southern half of the country to learn more about agriculture.

Marcus is one of OnHand's youngest employees - he is waiting at Lorong Halus jetty in the early hours of the morning to catch a ride out with a neighbouring farmer. A fresh liberal arts graduate from Yale-NUS College, he joined the company after a three month stint WWOOF-ing stint in Japan, where he worked on farms across the southern half of the country to learn more about agriculture.

OnHand rears locally-caught fish, which they trap in traditional wire cages, or " bubus ".

OnHand rears locally-caught fish, which they trap in traditional wire cages, or "bubus".

The daily catch, which can include anything from the common orange spotted grouper and croaker, to stingray and sea cucumbers, is then transferred to one of the farm's pens, where they are fed until they grow to size.

The daily catch, which can include anything from the common orange spotted grouper and croaker, to stingray and sea cucumbers, is then transferred to one of the farm's pens, where they are fed until they grow to size.

The  bubus  are tied to the wooden structures, and are lowered 7 to 8 metres to the bottom of the seabed. This method allows OnHand to bring in catch as a sustainable rate. In order to protect local populations, the farmers always release females back into the sea, and create conditions conducive to egg hatching.

The bubus are tied to the wooden structures, and are lowered 7 to 8 metres to the bottom of the seabed. This method allows OnHand to bring in catch as a sustainable rate. In order to protect local populations, the farmers always release females back into the sea, and create conditions conducive to egg hatching.

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Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Systems (IMTRAS) utilise waste from one organism as food for another. For example, within a single fish pen, fish waste serves as food for lobster and crabs. The waste produced by crustaceans, is in turn, broken down into fertilisers by sea cucumbers and sea urchins. The fertiliser enables macro algae like seaweed and sea grapes to thrive. Here, Marcus and a few visitors throw fresh mussel meat into the pen to feed the circling seabasses and groupers.

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Systems (IMTRAS) utilise waste from one organism as food for another. For example, within a single fish pen, fish waste serves as food for lobster and crabs. The waste produced by crustaceans, is in turn, broken down into fertilisers by sea cucumbers and sea urchins. The fertiliser enables macro algae like seaweed and sea grapes to thrive. Here, Marcus and a few visitors throw fresh mussel meat into the pen to feed the circling seabasses and groupers.

Daniel, a neighbouring farmer, drags a net out and hangs it across the structure to prepare for an incoming batch of fish.

Daniel, a neighbouring farmer, drags a net out and hangs it across the structure to prepare for an incoming batch of fish.

After a bad storm, Shannon, Marcus and Daniel assess the damage done to the wooden structure and strategise on how to replace the blue barrels, which provide the buoyancy needed to keep the kelong afloat.

After a bad storm, Shannon, Marcus and Daniel assess the damage done to the wooden structure and strategise on how to replace the blue barrels, which provide the buoyancy needed to keep the kelong afloat.

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The team pay a visit to another  kelong , one of the few structures that sit alongside the North Pasir Ris coastline. Fishermen used to take their boats directly from the beach to their farms, but nowadays, all registered vehicles have to leave from Lorong Halus jetty, the designated jetty built by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in 2014 to support Singapore's aquaculture industry.

The team pay a visit to another kelong, one of the few structures that sit alongside the North Pasir Ris coastline. Fishermen used to take their boats directly from the beach to their farms, but nowadays, all registered vehicles have to leave from Lorong Halus jetty, the designated jetty built by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in 2014 to support Singapore's aquaculture industry.

Integrating "cleaners" such as mussels into their operations has removed the need for expensive oxygen and filtration equipment, thus saving on electricity bills, and at the same time, keeps the aquatic environment hygienic.

Integrating "cleaners" such as mussels into their operations has removed the need for expensive oxygen and filtration equipment, thus saving on electricity bills, and at the same time, keeps the aquatic environment hygienic.

However, the mussels also grow on nets, weighing the whole structure down. As such, the nets have to be periodically lifted to dry in the sun.

However, the mussels also grow on nets, weighing the whole structure down. As such, the nets have to be periodically lifted to dry in the sun.

Shannon and Marcus are readying the rope that they will thread through the net, to lift and attach it to a few poles.

Shannon and Marcus are readying the rope that they will thread through the net, to lift and attach it to a few poles.

Marcus tries to find his balance as he steps off the kelong into the boat that is headed back to shore.

Marcus tries to find his balance as he steps off the kelong into the boat that is headed back to shore.