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

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.


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.

Alex Rahin
Chief Product and Technology Officer

Alex is an entrepreneurial technology leader with over 25 years of hands-on experience in developing and executing innovative product and technology strategies.

Prior to Cervest, Alex served as Chief Product & Technology Officer at Beamly, a technology and data company delivering data platforms & infrastructure, data & content management solutions, and AI-powered eCommerce analytics, leading Beamly to a successful exit in 2020.

Before working at Beamly, Alex served as Chief Data Officer at Just Eat, where he built an end-to-end data organization, leading the company’s data-driven transformation with the launch of a unified customer data platform and scalable machine learning products

Earlier in his career, Alex held prominent roles at Zalando, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett Packard, and three technology startups achieving successful exits in all three.

Alex holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from UC Berkeley.