Here’s a story on a risk that very few retail businesses saw coming.

 

On July 5th 1994, a small, unassuming online bookseller called Amazon set up in a garage just outside Seattle, USA. 25 years on, it has grown into an $815 billion behemoth that has transformed the way goods are consumed and distributed – and continues to disrupt every industry it touches.

 

Its almost pathological ‘customer first’ mentality means that 74% of consumers go to Amazon when they’re ready to buy something. By the end of this year, Amazon is expected to account for 52.4% of the e-commerce market in the U.S. These facts alone should be keeping any retail business leader up at night.

 

Some retailers have taken heed and adapted successfully. British retailer John Lewis squared up to shifting consumer purchasing habits early – and its continued potency is testament to that.  At a critical time for the business, it adopted a start-up mentality and explored what the world was going to look like in 10 years’ time – identifying new digital propositions that could be blended into existing business to improve it.

 

John Lewis may not have escaped the entirety of the fall-out from the high street crisis, but its forward-thinking digital strategy has undoubtedly helped mitigate the worst and provide some breathing space to adapt. Tesco is sloughing off years of legacy and slowly carving out a new business model. It may never be preeminent again, but it’s adapting by being leaner and seeing the future for what it is.

 

So what?

 

There is a valuable lesson here: either you redefine yourself or you let the competition redefine things for you. Those who recognise the challenge early and are willing to take bold action –  thrive and prosper. Those who don’t, won’t.

 

And painful though the fallout experienced across retail is, it is by no means as big a crisis for humanity as the changing climate we face today. As US science educator Bill Nye recently put it so eloquently: “the planet is on f*@&ing fire“.

 

Mark Carney and François Villeroy de Galhau warned in their recent open letter: “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.” This is what many investors have been saying for decades: climate change, and the market and regulatory response to it, has the potential to upend entire markets and sectors, and consign even the largest companies to the dustbin of history.

 

Businesses cannot carry on as we have before and need to think up smart new ways to design for a more uncertain climate to ensure their own long term prosperity without compromising the environment that they rely upon to exist in the first place.

 

A thriving planet – one business decision at a time  

 

While it might seem a daunting prospect (and we’ve written about the dangers of climate panic, anxiety even, leading to personal inertia) the good news is that most modern leaders are beginning to explore how they can take better decisions that protect its future through smarter mitigation and adaptation. The only way to do that with any rigour is by having access to powerful, robust insights into future outcomes.

 

At Cervest, we are setting out to build a powerful, predictive platform that informs everyday decisions businesses and governments make, with future climate uncertainty built in. The aim is to supply AI-driven indicators (or signals) of your future business outcomes to make smarter decisions: mitigate the risks you face in the short term and dynamically adapt your business processes for the longer term.

 

Focusing first on agriculture, food supply and insurance

 

Cervest is trialling use cases in agriculture, food supply and insurance, where the climate crisis is already having a significant impact on business.

 

The goal is to be able to monitor, predict and simulate crop yield and soil organic carbon with high accuracy, and suggest appropriate action… anywhere on the planet, so that in future, conceivably:

  • Food and beverage companies have better prepared sourcing and logistics for this season’s crop production
  • Policy makers at a national and regional level make adaptive decisions on alternative drought resistant crop strains in specific geographies
  • Insurers incentivise the careful cultivation of farmland rather than its exploitation
  • Governments, regulators and financial institutions apply Cervest’s climate modelling in their own macroeconomic simulations
  • Farmers decide what is the most productive use of degraded land

 

And going forward our platform could also enable us to provide wider land-based asset decision support in areas such as forestry, flood management, soil degradation and impact on wildlife.

 

The climate crisis is real.

To protect and grow your business and to support a thriving planet takes the same realisation, action, and innovation as you need in order to successfully adapt to new business challenges and market forces.  New ‘climate smart decision’ technology means that businesses involved in the land economy have an opportunity to prosper and make a positive impact, protecting both the planet and their livelihoods, one smart decision at a time.

 

Photography is by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash.

Ernesta Baniulyte 
Product Designer

Ernesta has been a full-stack product designer for more than five years. She has valuable experience in the B2B, B2C and B2B2C worlds, and while working at both agencies and product/service companies, she has learned to develop UX research infrastructures to support strategy.

At Cervest, Ernesta contributes to all stages of the product development process – from initial ideation to the exacting detail of UI design – finding new ways to visualise data, and ensure our product is intuitive and user friendly.

Ernesta’s decision to join Cervest was inspired by her desire to make the world a safer, better and more aware place.

Ramani Lachyan 
Junior Research Scientist

Ramani joined Cervest after obtaining her Master’s in Physics from ETH, Zurich. She brings with her valuable experience gained through working on model building and data simulation pertaining to neutrino physics.

Ramani has joined Cervest as a Junior Research Scientist and will be working on creating algorithms that allow for the extraction of physical observables from data from a range of sources.

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Lukas Scholtes 
Statistical Scientist

Lukas completed his maths BSc at ETH Zurich, followed by an MSc in statistics at Imperial College. He wrote his MSc thesis in collaboration with Cervest, on the modelling of North American wheat yields via Bayesian parametric and non-parametric methods.

Following an internship in the NGO sector in Bangladesh and a stint in the world of fintech, Lukas comes to Cervest, excited to apply himself to the challenges that are arising as a consequence of unsustainable land-use policies and climate change.

Aidan Coyne
Junior Researcher

Aidan is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Science and Engineering at University College London with a focus on computer science and data informatics.

At Cervest, Aidan is working on researching and assimilating a database of articles categorising the reasons for extreme decreases in crop yields across Europe. The information will be used to help predict the impact of weather events on crop yield and contribute to  Cervest’s ability to bring clarity to decision making around climatic and extreme events.

While studying, she also volunteers with environmental conservation groups and youth engagement programmes.

Jasmine Thompson
Engineering Resident

Jasmine’s background is primarily in Python programming with a focus on data analysis and visualisation.

Since graduating, she has worked on data insights for a London-based dating app startup, helping the company understand the user base and guide new growth. She is now excited to use her skills to help Cervest deliver playback data and useful data analysis and is passionate about the potential of data science, machine learning and visualisation tools.

While studying at Westcliff High School for Girls she was involved in a variety of projects including GUI design for BAE Systems and data collection for a surveillance vehicle project sponsored by Leonardo S.p.A. She was also the Data Analyst for a long-running Southend Youth Council project that advocated for students having better mental health services in school.

Stoyan Binev
Junior Software Engineer

Stoyan is a BSc student at King’s College London with two years’ experience in software engineering.

With experience working for Amazon and Google as a software engineer, as well as for a fintech start-up, Stoyan was inspired to join Cervest’s by its planet-wide scale and the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world.

He is currently finishing his degree and dissertation while also specialising in data processing at Cervest.

Agnes Schim van der Loeff
Policy Researcher

Agnes joined Cervest after completing her BA in Arabic and Development Studies from SOAS University of London. She is interested in the intersection of the social, economic and political dimensions of climate change and passionate about climate justice. During her studies she was also engaged in environmental activism, including as environment officer in the SOAS students’ union.

Agnes started at Cervest as a research resident exploring the ethical implications of AI in relation to climate change, which resulted in a paper selected for an oral presentation at the NeurIPS 2019 workshop on AI for social good. Building on this, she is developing an ethical framework for Cervest. As policy researcher she now does research on the regulatory context of Cervest’s work and on emerging policies relating to climate change. 

Kate Chkhaidze
Machine Learning Scientist

Kate joined Cervest after completing her PhD study at the Institute of Cancer Research, University of London. Her Project was on statistical and computational modelling of cancer evolution. Her educational background is in pure mathematics (BSc – Tbilisi State University) and statistics (MSc – Imperial College London). Before deciding to study for a PhD, she worked as a junior analyst/developer at the Bank of Georgia and in parallel was giving lectures in Statistics to undergraduate students in Tbilisi for almost two years.

At Cervest, she will be working as a Machine Learning Scientist on crop classification problems. She loves the mission and goal of the company and is very excited to be a part of the process of achieving it.