23-year-old runs community garden selling cloned venus flytraps
He has since embarked on a journey to share his love for venus flytraps with others.
Growing up, Darren Ng always felt that tending to plants was a boring chore.
Afterall, plants are pretty passive. They don’t move and respond to your beck and call, unlike pets. But an unexpected encounter with a venus flytrap when he was a Primary Three student changed his mind.
Intrigued by its unique hunting ability, he went on to find out more about the carnivorous plant.
“It was the first time that a plant amazed me,” shares Darren, who had observed that the plants were dying in Singapore’s heat. He began to study more on the regenerative properties of plants, hoping he could find a way to help the carnivorous plants cope better in our tropical climate.
Six years later, a 15-year-old Darren achieved an unexpected breakthrough discovery on plant tissue culture which allowed him to help venus flytraps adapt to our weather. It would eventually turn a hobby into a viable career path for the bespectacled young adult.
Now 23, Darren has since been able to increase the efficiency of venus flytraps as well as made progress in terms of cloning the singular-species plant.
He also started a community among Singaporeans who were interested in growing the plant, so as to not let his efforts spent in research go to waste. While he faced initial rejection, constant support from his family and teachers helped his dream take off.
Called SG VenusFlytrap, the local community researches and develops tropical versions of the carnivorous plants to solve the problems of growing a temperate plant in tropical weather. It also seeks to guide and educate interested individuals, specifically kids, on how to properly grow the plants.
What started off as a mere 10-person interest group composed of friends and family, has since grown to become a Facebook community with close to 5000 members.
“Members came down to my house to see the plants but as the group grew bigger and bigger, we had issues catering to the members who wanted to visit as it created some disturbances to the neighbours.
“After seeking advice from the community, we decided to have a physical community garden and we came across Social Innovation Park. They were quite supportive of the idea and then they offered this physical garden over here.”
Now into its third year of existence, the community garden has simplified the process of viewing by allowing members to walk around freely to look at the different plants SG VenusFlytrap has to offer.
As of today, the community has 20 different venus flytraps cultivar in the garden and another 20 in the research lab that they are still doing research on.
While these 40 plants are simply cultivars that have been made through the means of cloning, they all have their distinct traits and unique looks. There are differences in their colours, growth rates, trap sizes and teeth length.
To help the community learn more about these cultivars, private tours are conducted for members.
Held every Saturday, the tours are meant for the members to learn more about which types of venus flytraps are suited for their experience level and lifestyle.
“By understanding their level of experience, we can better share which type of plant is more suitable for them. Our community believes that their success depends on the type of plants they select.
“To be very honest, not all the carnivorous plants are suitable for everyone so by understanding them better over a tour, we are able to share with them which species is more suitable for them. With this method, we’ve greatly reduced the number of plant losses we’ve experienced in the past,” shares Daren, who is currently studying at NUS.
They are also often engaged by schools under the Ministry of Education (MOE) to hold workshops for students to learn more about the exotic plant.
These workshops are specially crafted to bring the children through the past failures Darren experienced as a teenager. Through the learning journeys, Darren hopes they’ll learn from his mistakes and be inspired to take action to realise their passions or dreams.
Knowing that he is contributing to the efforts of inspiring the next batch of students in terms of science, it makes his job more fulfilling. Seeing the students and community members return with their successfully grown plants motivates him to work harder.
“How are we going to improve the efficiency of education? How are we going to guide them better? These are some of the things that have motivated me to continue through this journey for the last five years,” says Darren.
Beyond this, Darren also attributes his success to his parents, teachers and the community members.
“Because I started this when I was very young, at about the age of 12 or 13 years old, my mentors were actually my teachers, family members and community members.”
As he embarked on this journey, there were many moments when he felt demoralised from the constant rejection and failures. He managed to overcome them after heeding advice from his teachers who told him that to succeed, he had to first believe in himself before getting others to believe in him.
“‘If you don’t even believe in yourself, how are you going to continue the journey forward?’ It was a quote that really stuck with me and I really relate to it. So I’ve continued working on it just to see if what I believe in is something possible,” he says.
His parents also helped him out with the day-to-day enquiries when he first launched SG VenusFlytrap. This helped to lessen his burden as he also had to juggle school on top of his responsibilities as the founder of the community.
While there are currently only seven to 10 part-time and full-time staff who make up the frontline operations, the rest of the community members take it upon themselves to share their opinions on how to manage the community. Whenever there’s an issue, different community members will come together to resolve that issue.
In fact, Darren admits that the members have helped greatly to shape and guide the direction in which the community should move towards.
Moving forward, Darren hopes that he’ll be able to reach out to a wider audience and share his passion for growing venus flytraps.