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.

André DuBuisson 
Chief Product Officer

Andre is a product specialist with 16 years’ experience delivering and growing global B2C / B2B products and Marketplaces across multiple sectors.

He’s successfully serviced diverse clients in product management, business analysis, UX and consulting. Recent engagements have included the innovative use of data science & technology in dynamic marketplaces and developing a large-scale customer engagement platform.

He has previously held product leadership positions at Victor Limited and Collinson Group, developing customer loyalty solutions for well-known international brands.

Ruiao Hu
Research Resident

A computer scientist by trade and a mathematician at heart, Ruiao graduated from Imperial College London with an MEng degree in Joint Mathematics and Computer Science.

With industry experience in data engineering gained with world-leading finance firms, Ruiao has joined Cervest for the summer to construct data pipelines for a number of our upcoming projects.

Just as he joined Cervest, Ruiao achieved a first class MEng degree with the Governor’s Prize and Corporate Partnership Programme award for his final year project. After his time at Cervest he will pursue a PhD in stochastic geometric mechanics under the supervision of Prof Darryl Holm at Imperial College London.

James Walsh
Research Resident

James is a Statistical Scientist with a bachelor’s degree in the subject awarded from the Statistics department at the University of Warwick.

James joins Cervest as part of his work with the Warwick Manufacturing Group and The Alan Turing Institute where he is a Research Assistant developing Physically Informed Hybrid models.

He will be spending his time at Cervest applying this expertise to simulating individual crop growth and constructing bulk processing technologies for modelling organic carbon content for soil quality monitoring. He has also worked in the risk team of financial consultants at Albourne Partners building simulations.

Mike Zotov
Research Resident

Mike has recently graduated with a first class honours degree in Mathematics from the University of Warwick.

Having studied Machine Learning as part of his degree, he has joined Cervest for the summer to work on deep generative models for de-noising remote-sensing data.

After his time at Cervest he will continue to pursue his passion for Machine Learning with a Master’s degree at Imperial College London.

Anna Moses
Business Process Lead

Anna has broad experience helping organisations to define and operationalise their processes in order to achieve ambitious business objectives.

Anna has worked across the public, private, and charity sectors with a focus on organisational transformation through business analysis and behavioural science-focused change management, at organisations including the UK House of Commons, the Parliamentary Digital Service and leading US healthcare consultancy The Advisory Board Company.

Inspired by Cervest’s commitment to using technology for good, through both the delivery of game-changing products and an inclusive working environment, Anna is passionate about being part of the solution to the climate crisis.

She has a BA in Political Science and History from Wellesley College, Massachusetts, and also attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Michael Griffiths
Senior Engineer

Michael has been building software for over a decade as both a developer and analyst. He has worked and consulted in a broad spectrum of domains – including insurance, payments and e-commerce – for both early-stage startups and established companies. He is also a passionate open-source developer, being a co-maintainer of a number of developer tools for the Clojure programming language. Further, he has been a teacher for the ClojureBridge organisation, which provides free programming workshops for underrepresented groups in tech.

A dedicated environmentalist, having worked for the National Laboratory Service arm of the UK Environment Agency before entering the software industry, he joined Cervest in 2019 with a commitment to use his expertise to build flexible and scalable distributed software systems to help our world adapt to the growing climate crisis, while promoting sustainability and science-driven decision making.

Michael holds a B.Sc. in Theoretical Physics from University College London.