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.

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.

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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.

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.