It’s been a tumultuous year for Planet Earth with heatwaves, droughts, floods, and forest fires dominating headlines. Extreme weather-related events have increasingly become the norm and a landmark UN report out last week paints a stark picture of the risks associated with rising temperatures across the globe.

It’s clear we live in volatile times, and as food crops are particularly sensitive to variations in growing conditions, our increasingly erratic weather is hitting soft commodities and their supply chains hard.  A poor potato crop this year in Europe, for example, led to strained retail relationships and caused havoc for factory planners and buyers. While there were ominous signs during the season, it was difficult to forecast precisely what the yields would be until the harvest season began. As a result, planning was both painful and stressful for all concerned.

Meanwhile, in the longer term, the rising frequency of extreme weather events means farmers will need to adapt their operations to ensure their land remains productive (for example through irrigation or drought resistant seeds) – important decisions that will demand considerable thought and investment.

However, there is good news. Advances in machine learning are enabling us to help those producing food and managing our food supply make better climate-smart decisions for the future, and regenerate Earth’s natural capital in the process.

Cervest’s next-generation software has been developed by some of the world’s leading scientists and AI experts. Our pioneering platform combines statistical science, computational sustainability, and agronomy with data from multiple sources – climatic, scientific, satellite, biophysical – and decodes it into genuinely useful and actionable intelligence.

We can deliver field-level personalised yield predictions anywhere in the world, earlier in the season than ever before without expensive on-farm equipment. And by tracking and predicting crop productivity, growers and buyers are able to plan earlier, saving scarce natural and financial resources.

Beyond watching the current season unfold in real time, our platform’s machine learning capabilities have also supercharged our ability to predict what will happen next, by continuously learning from billions of data points, across multiple crops and time periods.

Using these to simulate agricultural scenarios into the future for the first time, our approach also enables us to recommend more climate-smart farming practices. From new planting techniques to alternative seed types or crops, scenario modelling can help growers understand how to adapt for future productivity, and create a more resilient food supply ecosystem for everyone.

Leading companies, such as Mars are already embracing more sustainable ways of buying, committing $1bn to further support its growers and the land from which they source – technology has the power to enhance this even further.

Beyond industry, policy makers and NGOs can use AI to arm themselves with early predictions to help the world’s 570 million farms around the world adapt to climate change.

Artificial intelligence is enabling us to learn from nature, in order to protect it. And by doing so, we believe humans and machines together are now able to solve some of the world’s most complex food, agriculture and supply chain challenges – securing food supplies and sustaining the planet for future generations where volatility is the new normal.

This article originally appeared on techUK.org on 15th October as part of Green Week. See #techUKGreenweek for more content.

Photography is by Hal Gatewood 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.

Agnes Schim van der Loeff
Research Resident

Agnes recently graduated with a first class honours BA in Arabic and Development Studies from SOAS University of London. Alongside her studies she has also worked as Environment Officer in the SOAS students’ union. Passionate about environmental justice, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in political ecology.

Agnes has joined Cervest to research the ethical implications of AI in relation to climate change and food security, and thus help ensure Cervest’s pioneering technology adheres to the highest ethical standards. With her social science background she is interested in the social, economic and political dimensions of climate change and will therefore also conduct policy-related research to inform Cervest’s engagement with policy makers.