This year’s scorching summer of heatwaves has yet again underlined the dramatic impact of climate volatility on global crops. And analysis of the latest season has highlighted the rising pressure on the global brewing industry in particular.

At the end of August, UK barley prices were up 37% year on year, while in France they spiked 23%, according to a report from analysts at investment bank Berenberg. The report also cites US Department of Agriculture data, which puts world barley stocks at their lowest levels since 1984.

Meanwhile, although prices and supply of the other core beer ingredient, hops, were broadly stable this year, a drought in the Czech Republic reduced prized Saaz hops production by more than 30%. And with on-trend craft beer typically using 30 times more hops that traditional brews, the shortage has been especially keenly felt by this flourishing sector.

Developing El Niño conditions are likely to contribute to warmer global average temperatures again next year – and lead to a repeat of summer 2018. While, in the longer-term, projections are that climate change and increases in extreme weather events are likely to lead to more dramatic price hikes and supply chain challenges. Indeed, extreme weather could reduce global barley yield by up to 17%, according to research published in the journal Nature Plants in October.

This is naturally a significant concern for growers keen to protect their livelihoods and buyers struggling to secure their supply each season.

But advances in machine learning and statistical science make it possible to create powerful solutions that address fears at both ends of the supply chain. By drawing on the relevant data points from the billions available, AI can help provide early and accurate signals that can enable more informed decisions to be made much earlier each season.

Here’s how it works using a real-life scenario:

Global brewer feels the heat when severe drought affects multi-million dollar hops order

In 2015, high temperatures and low rainfall led to drought conditions in key growing areas for Saaz hops. In August, a fortnight before scheduled delivery, a hop producer informed one of its brewery buyers of a 31% supply loss and a 140% price increase. This led to significant supply issues and cost implications that had to be passed onto their customers. It also affected the future relationship between the producer and buyer.

In this scenario the shortfall was highlighted only two weeks out – leaving little time to make contingency plans.

We have developed technology that enables us to predict yields and potential disruptions to crop growth early and accurately, so we put our science to the test. We asked our machine learning and statistical scientists to run the hops scenario through our platform to see how much earlier we could have surfaced early warnings about the shortfall. We then analysed the difference the early warning information would have made to growers and buyers.

Combining statistical science, computational sustainability, geospatial, and agronomic data, our platform would have predicted this disruption an invaluable six times earlier and three months out from expected crop delivery – in May, rather than August – with 91% accuracy.

This would have given buyers significantly more time to secure additional supply, at a lower price. They would have been informed in time to make changes to their own purchasing plans, promotions, and factory production settings, and recipes could have been changed according to the predicted supply. Difficult decisions could be made earlier and with more confidence, leading to far greater business efficiencies.

Meanwhile for growers, it would have exponentially increased their ability to plan; for crop management, financially and for harvesting. Early yield disruption warnings also enable growers to manage relationships with their customers; buyers or intermediate processors, adding value and giving all parties confidence to continue working together in the future.

In an alternative scenario, where there was a surplus of supply: this type of early signal is equally useful for farmers to optimise their harvest and minimise waste.


With climate volatility growing, livelihoods are increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather, but embracing new technology is a powerful way to manage the risks better. We are already putting this into practice in real time for a number of forward-thinking Fortune 500 companies.

Smart buyers and their growers are starting to capitalise on advances in AI and machine learning, and taking advantage of pioneering software that is empowering them to make better-informed, earlier, and more confident, decisions that drive efficiency and reduce stress. And into the future, long-range predictions and scenario planning tools are enabling them to both protect food (and beer) supplies for generations to come, and help to regenerate our planet.

Photography is by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.


Dr Ben Calderhead
Chief Scientist

Ben Calderhead, a pivotal part of the Cervest team since 2017, is one of the world’s foremost experts in Bayesian uncertainty quantification and computational statistics. Focused on developing state-of-the-art, computationally efficient statistical methods, he is passionate about using machine learning to tackle complex real-world prediction problems.

A leader in this field for more than a decade, Ben is an assistant professor and lecturer at Imperial College London, teaching statistical modelling and machine learning, and supervising PhD research on Monte Carlo methodology, probabilistic numerics and Bayesian volatility modelling in financial markets. Prior to this he was a visiting researcher at both Harvard and MIT (in 2013 and 2014), and a Research Fellow at UCL. He has given invited talks at leading research institutes around the world, including at Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Alan Turing Institute in London.

With more than 1500 citations to his name in world-leading academic journals and conferences, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, NIPS, Bayesian Analysis, Biophysical Journal and Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Ben is extensively published on topics including Markov chain Monte Carlo methodology, single ion channel modelling, and statistical inference using differential equations.

Ben holds a PhD and MSc in Computational Statistics, funded by a Microsoft Research scholarship, and an MSci in Mathematics from the University of Glasgow (2002-2010).

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.

Dr Theo Damoulas
Space-Time Scientist

Theo is an award-winning Associate Professor in Data Science with a joint appointment in Computer Science and Statistics at Warwick University.

A thought leader in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Bayesian statistics, Theo’s specific interests lie in the application of spatiotemporal inference, learning with humans in the loop, kernel (covariance) methods and evidence integration in the fields of biology, sustainability, ecology, and engineering. Theo’s role at Cervest draws all of these interests together.

Theo Damoulas joined the University of Warwick in 2015 from New York University where he was an Assistant Professor of Research (2013-2015). Before that he was a Research Associate in the department of Computer Science at Cornell University. He finished his PhD thesis titled Probabilistic Multiple Kernel Learning in 2009 at the School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow.

A Turing Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute and affiliated with NYU as a Visiting Exchange Professor at the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), Theo has notched up more than 1000 citations and been published in high-profile academic journals including Nature Climate Change, Bioinformatics, ICML, NIPS, AI Magazine, Statistical Data Science and Biological Conservation, as well as two best paper accolades and two reproducible research awards.

Theo holds an MSc in Informatics (Distinction) from the University of Edinburgh (2003-2004) and an MEng in Engineering (1st Class) from the University of Manchester (1999-2003).

Dr Luis Costa
Climate Adaptation Scientist

Dr Luís Costa joins Cervest with more than a decade’s expertise working at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – a top think-tank renowned for its cutting-edge research in the fields of climate impacts and sustainability research.

An engineer turned researcher, he lead climate change adaptation studies for European research projects, the German Ministry of Environment and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GmbH). He holds strong expertise in GIS, remote sensing and climate models, as well as being an advocate for a concerted global strategy on climate adaptation.

Luis graduated with a Diploma degree in Environmental Engineering from Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro in 2006 and received his PhD from the University of Greifswald in 2013.

Yannis Zachos
Statistical Scientist

Yannis graduated with a first class honours degree from the University of Warwick, where he read Statistics and Computer Science (Data Science).

Having studied fields including artificial intelligence and Bayesian forecasting, and having worked on projects including Bayesian online changepoint detection and Anomaly detection of FTSE 100 stocks, Yannis has a passion for using machine learning algorithms to solve complex challenges – in particular those relating to wider-world problems.

He has recently developed an application that utilises machine-learning to evaluate performance of trading strategies at Eurobank Private Bank Luxembourg.

Owen van Eer
Statistical Scientist

A Master’s graduate of Statistics at Imperial College London, Owen joined Cervest’s Statistical Science team. Working in programming languages R and Python, he has helped develop some of the world’s most advanced Bayesian machine learning algorithms, designed to generate accurate and real-time crop yield predictions, encoded for continuously learning for the future.

Previously, Owen graduated with a first-class degree at the Erasmus School of Economics, where he won a best paper award in 2015 for his study on the optimisation of drone delivery networks. He has also worked at research and consulting company Veneficus, developing econometric algorithms and models to analyse data for clients in the retail and FMCG sector.  Just as he joined Cervest, Owen achieved a Distinction in his MSc from Imperial and won the Winton Prize for best MSc in Statistics Project for 2018.

Peter Wortsman
Chief Commercial Officer

Peter joined Cervest from Tesco with over a decade of working in grocery retail and the agricultural value chain in buying, change, and strategy. He is passionate about building partnerships to tackle challenges holistically and sustainably.

At Tesco, Peter pioneered a more collaborative and sustainable buying approach focussing on growing value and reducing risk across the entire value chain. Prior to Tesco, he led stakeholder efforts of Greenhouse Gas reduction plans with US State Government agencies in addition to supporting Institutional & Organisational analysis at the World Bank. Peter holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School and undergraduate from McGill University.

Oliver Godby
Head of Engineering and Technology

Oliver is a veteran technologist and software engineer with 17 years’ experience working in innovative environments across the spectrum of start-ups, mature businesses and large institutional organisations. Recent engagements include the migration and modernisation of the BBC World Service (29 websites in 14 months) and two years working in the emerging start-up market in Manila, building innovative, scalable and cost effective platforms.

He is experienced in Cloud-based application design, infrastructure, deployment and the relevant technologies and practices required to deliver consistent, scalable solutions. He holds a graduate degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Raj Mahapatra
General Counsel & Head of IP

Raj has advised fast-growing companies in London and New York on tech, social impact and public relations for more than 25 years on corporate, commercial, financial risk and intellectual property matters. Frequently navigating the complex interactions between legal jurisdictions, he combines this experience with his love of nascent regulation to better understand the intersection of technology, sustainable targets and the law.

He worked as a lawyer at Norton Rose and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP. Raj has worked with Iggy for more than 10 years, joining GADCO as Director of Legal Affairs in 2009. He graduated from the University of Bristol.

Becky Charles
Communications Lead

A former business journalist, Becky is an experienced communications consultant with eight years’ experience enhancing and protecting the reputations of ambitious and dynamic businesses from leading discount supermarket Lidl and Hearst Magazines, to ad-tech pioneer AppNexus and award-winning independent boutique marketplace Trouva.

Becky has worked with companies of all sizes and at all stages of growth from new enterprises reinventing old business models, to traditional firms pivoting their business models for a new era.

Passionate about new technology and its potential to create a better world, most recently her focus has been on leading award-winning activity for companies committed to delivering genuine change in their fields. She has a BSc in Linguistic Science from University of Reading.

Dr. Shachi Sharma
Agribusiness Advisor

Shachi is an experienced sustainability lead with strong roots in emerging markets, expertise in developing smallholder business strategy, hands-on implementation, and driving successful, inclusive, business models. A lifelong learner and entrepreneur, he has multiple degrees in science as well as business and, between 2013 and 2015, Shachi started and managed Syngenta Nigeria making it an integral part of the country’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda.

He has also worked at BP and is the founder of the MaolKeki Foundation, Director of AgriMayum GmbH, and currently engaged as the Africa Lead for AgBiTech.

He holds MSc and PhD degrees in science from Bristol University and completed executive education at Harvard University, Purdue University, HEC, and INSEAD.

Andy Wales
Sustainability Advisor

Andy Wales works to match breakthrough entrepreneurs with multinationals’ value chains to deliver growth and social impact. Currently Chief Digital Impact & Sustainability Officer at BT, he is also a Senior Adviser for the Global Innovation Fund, an angel investor in ‘tech for good’ and a Visiting Business Fellow at the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford.

Previously Global VP Sustainable Development for AB InBev, he also spent 10 years with SABMiller plc. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, was lead author of the Macmillan book Big Business Big Responsibilities (2010) and is an independent member of WWF UK’s Programme Committee. He holds an MBA from Warwick Business School.

Sachin Kapila
Natural Capital Advisor

Sachin is a seasoned executive in sustainable development and natural capital. He served as VP in Shell’s Government Relations, responsible for interfacing with global organisations e.g. World Bank, IFC, OECD, G20, UN and IMF – to ensure effective coordination of Shell’s policy in energy and climate.

He had sole Group responsibility for establishing global biodiversity policy, developing tools and guidelines for forestry carbon, as well as building relationships with global organisations.

Earlier he worked for an environmental consultancy covering EMEA, LATAM, and SE Asia. He holds an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College.

Karan Chopra
Sustainability Advisor

Karan has experience in building ventures focused on creating more inclusive and sustainable markets – in both emerging and developed economies. He has co-founded Opportunity@Work (tackling economic mobility in the U.S.), GADCO (tackling sustainability and poverty alleviation through agri-food markets in Ghana) and WAVE (tackling youth unemployment in Africa).

Prior to this, Karan was a social sector fellow at McKinsey & Company advising clients across (Fortune 500, governments, and philanthropy).

Karan was named as a 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur by Forbes. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School (Baker Scholar).