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Where are they now? Chris Cerveny PhD ’11 innovates new ways for people to grow their own produce

-Magdalen Lindeberg

Chris Cerveny at work on a Lettuce Grow farming unit with uShip chef Ella Adams (photo: Austin Statesman)

Interested in growing your own produce, but don’t know how to start? As Head of Horticulture for Lettuce Grow, Chris Cerveny is developing hydroponic growing systems and selecting varieties to empower more people to grow their own food at home.

Founded in 2019 by Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik, Lettuce Grow is an Austin TX based start-up that provides subscribers with vertical hydroponic gardening systems. Subscribers receive monthly shipments of seedlings with varieties selected for flavor, yield, pest resistance, climate compatibility, subscriber preference. The founders’ ultimate mission is to change the food system by empowering everyone to grow a significant amount of their own food.  Lettuce Grow’s current customer list includes the University of Southern California, Otium Restaurant in Los Angeles, the Marriott Hotel in Anaheim, and Austin-based uShip.

Cerveny’s PhD research was conducted with Bill Miller in the Horticulture flower bulb research program. Looking back on his Cornell education, Cerveny particularly values the skills he gained in creative problem solving. “From the annual field review to hallway conversations, I remember constantly being challenged to think about things from different angles. This has been so useful in my professional career.” Cervany additionally cites the leadership training received Marvin Pritts’ leadership class for graduate students. “That’s probably the one course that I use the most… how to work in and leading teams is not straightforward but that class sure set me on the right path.” Prior to employment with Lettuce Grow, Cerveny conducted research for Hawthorne Gadening Company and Scotts Miracle-Gro. His move to Texas was precipitated in part by losing his home to California wildfires in 2017.

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