A/Prof Tan, who is CEO and Director for Oceanus Tech Pte Ltd (part of Oceanus Group), one of the world’s largest land-based aquaculture companies, is a member of our Scientific Advisory Board at Pebble Labs.
When he’s not at his day job, A/Prof Tan is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor in Aquaculture for James Cook University in Australia and serves on multiple committees and workgroups around the world. As a leader in Asia, he is currently Singapore Representative (private sector) to APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security, where he co-chairs the Sustainable Development for Agriculture and Fisheries Sector.
Here is a Q & A with Mr. Tan to introduce you to him:
A/Prof Tan, how did you get involved in aquaculture?
I got involved in this field through my engineering work with a company creating solutions to wastewater and aquaculture industry in Singapore and Asia. More than half of my customers were fish farmers at the time and at my current role, more than half of our customers are in aquaculture.
What is next for aquaculture?
The globe’s population is increasing to nearly 10 Billion people over the next 30 years and our current food production is estimated to be 50-70% less than we will need to feed that many people. Aquaculture demand is estimated to double in the next ten years and the food production needs to increase 62% in aquaculture to meet those needs.
Sustainable technologies will be essential to help meet this demand.
You have been involved in many amazing organizations in your career, what do you believe is your most important work to date?
Food security. It is my life’s passion and calling and it is absolutely the most important work.
Why is this work so important to you? What prompted your deep interest in Food Security?
Aside from the urgent crisis of population growth and climate change that means our world will be very short on food within 30 years if we do not do something now, I remember a presentation two years ago that really had an impact on me.
The CEO of FAO Korea was presenting at a conference and before he began, he played a short video. The video was a documentary that went back to rural areas of Korea after the Korean War to see how the country was recovering. The story showed children crying inconsolably because they were hungry and the mother said, “can you help, my children have not eaten in a week and there is nothing I can do to help them.” In one case a mother was considering taking the lives of her children because she could not help them. She thought it merciful to end their suffering. The speaker vowed that we can never allow hunger like that to happen again and there started the initiative for the Korea Seed Bank, which now has enough seed stored to support crop growth for generations.
I left that experience committed that our children, our communities’ children, our countries children should never face hunger.
You have so many roles you are involved in, why work with Pebble Labs? What is it about this opportunity that makes it a priority for you?
The use of chemicals and antibiotics is a big problem in the aquaculture industry. Industrial dyes and chemicals, known to cause cancer, are being used in some cases. Disease has a big impact on my business as well, so the problems Pebble Labs is solving is very needed in the market.
Pebble Labs’ mission also aligns with what I want to do, to what I feel called to do – which is to sustainably address global food security. Pebble Labs has the only sustainable technology I’ve seen to address the diseases we are facing in aquaculture.
Tell us a little about you – what do you do in your free time?
I have a wife and three boys, two are who in college and one has already started work.
When I’m not working, I have volunteered for more than 13 years at a local non-profit social service organization, The New Charis Mission. This program supports individuals in rehabilitation from drug addiction, those incarcerated or released from prison, elderly and at-risk students. Our mission is “Building the Vision, Rebuilding Lives” and I’m proud to help raise awareness and support donor relations for the organization.