London-based Cervest is developing an real-time, AI climate forecasting platform to help businesses, governments and farmers to manage risk, inform policy and help solve Earth’s most pressing environmental problems.
For example, a 2014 study found that the 2011 civil war in Syria was fuelled in part by droughts and a lack of freshwater having a detrimental impact on the region’s crops and economy – leading to unrest as young men fled from the countryside to cities in search of work.
Catching climate events like this one before they happen in the future could help to prevent further disasters, including war.
Founded in 2016, Cervest has now raised €4.3 million in an investment round led by new deep tech VC Future Positive Capital, with participation from Astanor Ventures. The pre-Series A funding round was oversubscribed on its initial €2.9 million target, bringing the company’s total to more than €5.2 million.
As part of the investment, Future Positive Capital’s founder Sofia Hmich and Astanor Ventures’ co-founder George Coelho have joined Cervest’s Board. The National Institute of Agricultural Botany also joined this funding round.
Built on three years of research and development by a team of scientists, mathematicians, developers and engineers, Cervest’s Earth Science AI platform is capable of analysing billions of data points to forecast how changes in the climate will impact the future of entire countries right down to individual landscapes, anywhere in the world.
It does this by combining research and modelling techniques taken from proven Earth sciences – including atmospheric science, meteorology, hydrology and agronomy – with AI, imaging, machine learning and Bayesian statistics.
Using vast collections of satellite imagery and probability theory, the platform can accurately identify signals, or early-warning signs, of extreme events such as floods, fires, and strong winds. It can spot changes in soil health, and identify water risk.
The platform has been in testing with Syngenta and McVitie’s, and a beta version is due to go live early 2020.
For businesses, Cervest’s platform could reveal the optimal location to build a new factory before any investment is risked. For farmers, the platform could warn a leading wheat grower that their crop yield isn’t expected to meet its targets next year, meaning the farmer could better manage their reserves to avoid food shortages. It could be used by insurers to help them set premiums for the next 12 months, or inform governments on a wide range of policies, including security threat risks caused by climatic and natural capital fluctuations.
These forecasts are updated in real-time, via a scalable personalised and filtered dashboard, and can be used to model how any chosen region is expected to change over the coming weeks, months and even decades.
A customer can run vast numbers of simulations on specific regions to show all the possible outcomes and these queries can be as specific as: “Where should we source maize from in 2022 if the temperature in a region rises by 2-degrees?”
Cervest’s team comes from a network of more than 30 universities, including Imperial College, The Alan Turing Institute, Cambridge, UCL, Harvard and Oxford, and has published more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Its multi-discipline approach enables Cervest to simultaneously tie together the multifaceted elements that contribute to our planet’s increasingly volatile climate – across multiple regions.
Cervest will use the new investment to grow the business by hiring outstanding talent, securing new customers and continuing to generate proprietary data assets.
A beta version of the platform is due to launch in Q1 2020 and will be designed with risk practitioners in the financial, insurance, government and CPG sectors, working across disclosure, supply planning, investment, sustainability and policy, in mind. Cervest is initially focusing on European markets, and is on target to have the entirety of Europe mapped ahead of the beta launch, after which it will complete mapping the rest of the world.
Cervest was recently accepted in the UK TechNation and the global Creative Destruction Labs Artificial Intelligence programmes, reflecting its pioneering Earth Science AI for climate-smart decisions.
“Our mission is to back companies that use deep tech – and the sharpest and most ambitious minds – to solve the world’s most pressing problems,” said Sofia Hmich, founder of Future Positive Capital. “Making crucial decisions in the face of climate uncertainty is one of them and Cervest is doing just that. With reports suggesting we have fewer than 60 years of farming left unless drastic action is taken, the need for science-backed decisions could not be greater. Businesses and policy makers hold the key to change and with access to Cervest’s proprietary AI technology they can start to make that change a reality at low cost – before it’s too late.”
“We are delighted Future Positive Capital and Astanor Ventures have joined our journey,” said Iggy Bassi, founder & CEO, Cervest. “Our goal is to empower everyone to make informed decisions that improve the long-term resilience of our planet. Today decision-makers are struggling with climate uncertainty and extreme events and how they are affecting their business operations, assets, investments, or policy choices.
“Our world-class team has designed an Earth Science AI platform to quantify both short- and long-range risks to ensure mission-critical decisions are informed in real time. The potential is huge to radically alter the ability to quantify and personalise interconnected risks for users across any space and time at low cost and at mass scale.”