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Biological Challenges

Humble Origins

Darren discovered his passion for carnivorous plants through his science textbook in 2008 when he was in primary 3. The colorful vibrant nature of the pitcher plants and their amazing hunting abilities triggered the interest within him and other like-minded peers more than a decade ago. Everyone was very excited and in hope that they can successfully keep one of those amazing plants are at home. However, years after years of trials, the results weren’t very promising as there was a very high rate of failures. Only a handful of growers have limited success and the successes are not reproducible. Darren knew something very fundamental had gone wrong all this while and begin to look into the biological needs of carnivorous plants.

Darren read up excessively and collected data from other experienced growers and finally arrived at a hypothesis that our local tropical climate was the underlying root cause for the high failure rate across our local community. Carnivorous plants such as the Venus Flytrap are known for their needs of temperate climate and do best during springtime where the temperature is cool and having long hours of direct sun.

Faced with continuous failures in trying to keep temperate plants alive in tropical climate countries like Singapore was by no means an easy task. Many growers soon gave up and move on to something else in life. Darren continued the journey but he was faced with a continuous steak of failure before shedding some light in 2013 when Darren chanced upon biotechnology – Plant Tissue Culture.

Above: An unhealthy Venus Flytrap, identified by the leaves being long and thin.

From Home Laboratory to Garden

Plant Tissue Culture

A spark went off, igniting his curiosity in plant tissue regeneration in carnivorous plants. Curiosity exploded inside Darren triggering waves of excitement, interest, and actions which led him to start his own laboratory from his residence, marking the start of his journey. In addition to the mounting challenges in the field of scientific research, Darren also faced backlashes from the pioneer growers who think that the use of Biotech to change plant behavior is merely a science fantasy.

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Struggling through O-Levels, with A-Levels in view, challenges grew by the day even in his home laboratory. Failure was not an option as it would mean a complete restart from zero with plant samples dying inside the lab. In 2016, a group was formed, known as SG Bred Venus Fly Traps, consisting of members who share the same vision as Darren. Reports from members around Singapore accelerated the progress of data collection consisting of plants’ health along with the range of growing conditions within Singapore. With the support from family and school teachers from Presbyterian High School and Anderson Junior College, he persisted.

Above: Darren working on plant tissue culture in his home laboratory.

With the continuous supports from the SG Bred Venus Fly Traps group, the very first batch of Tropicalised Carnivorous Plants which everyone was waiting and hoping for had been developed! This very first batch of Venus Flytrap shown significant changes in the success rate and soon bring hope to the community and becoming the sole reason for the continuation of the Biotech Research.

Above: Young Venus Flytrap plants developing in a plant tissue culture flask.

What started in the lab was now in the hands of his many members as they trade the locally nurtured Tissue-Cultured Carnivorous Plants. With the high success rate of the plants from the lab, what was once an exotic, high-maintenance plant soon grew into highly adaptive and low maintenance. A plant that is easily kept by anyone soon found its way into the hands of many around Singapore. What was once a small group of like-minded individuals with an interest in carnivorous plants has now become a community and since renamed as SGVenusFlyTrap.

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