Grafted Growers

John Jackson '00 '13, Ricardo Hernandez ’12

By:
University Relations – Alumni Association, Jacob Chinn photo

Remove the top of one tomato plant and graft it to the root of another and what do you get? A stronger, more resistant tomato plant that yields great-tasting fruit. 

Try the Lemon Boy or Early Girl tomatoes created by Grafted Growers, a local Tucson startup owned by alumni entrepreneurs. These grafted tomatoes produce a yellow-colored tomato with a sweet and tangy taste or a flavorful red tomato perfect for sandwiches and salads. 

Owners John Jackson ’00 ’13 and Ricardo Hernandez ’12 met in the highly ranked McGuire Program for Entrepreneurship at the UA, where they began collaborating on their idea for Grafted Growers. Hernandez received his Ph.D. from the School of Plant Sciences and Jackson received his MBA from the Eller College of Management. 

Using sustainable growing systems, they produce high-quality grafted cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, specialty melons, and tomatoes. With a small land footprint, they are able to sell grafted plants to commercial growers and home gardeners at low prices. 

The duo recently was awarded a federal research grant that supports small, technology-based businesses. They will use the grant to commercialize novel crop-production strategies to address issues related to food production in collaboration with the UA School of Plant Sciences, the UA Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering, the Arizona Center for Innovation, and Tech Launch Arizona.