11 Oct 2019

“We believe that humans and intelligent machines have unrivalled potential to co-solve the world’s biggest food security challenges.”

As extreme weather-related events dominate the news, London-based Cervest is building an AI-first platform to help businesses, governments and farmers adapt to climate volatility.

Inspired by his first-hand experience of building a farm in Africa, founder Iggy Bassi says the platform will predict short and long-range crop yields and help plan future food availability and security.

Speaking at Food Matters Summit Iggy will join other forward thinkers as they identify the game-changing developments in practices and technology that will transform the global food system.

What does Cervest set out to achieve and how does it work?

Our goal is to accelerate the advent of ‘holistic adaptation decisions for all’, so we can create and maintain a sustainable future for life to thrive. If we don’t create a system that enables interconnected climate and land risk analysis to drive better decisions, we will run out of time to reverse and restore the negative impacts of climate change on our planet.

Our radical new approach uses AI to monitor, predict and simulate how the planet’s natural resources will respond to multiple risks, on a local and global scale. It will detect disruption and extreme events across multiple regions simultaneously, quickly and accurately, bringing clarity to decision making, so that businesses and policymakers can plan ahead.

We are starting by building a dynamic map of the planet, powered by historic, predictive and personalised Earth Science data, that will answer questions related to the land we all rely on for food as well as for eco-services and infrastructure.

Our Earth Science AI makes it possible to simultaneously interrogate and process complex scientific and operational data including soil health, weather, water, land-use classification and satellite imagery across different scales, resolutions and timescales for millions of hectares of land. From this, we are able to extract personalised signals to forecast land productivity and inform land use over time, bringing clarity to decision making both in-season and into the future.

You have a background in agribusiness – tell us how that inspired you to found Cervest?

I have spent more than 20 years building companies and advising global organisations (inc. Fortune 500 and sovereigns) on competitiveness, technology, and sustainability, and have spoken about natural capital, analytics and agriculture at forums including UN-FAO, World Bank, ICRD, Harvard, and the UK Government.

I have long been an advocate for climate-smart innovations, and my impact focused farm-2-market agribusiness venture was supported by Acumen Fund, Soros, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/AGRA, World Bank, and Syngenta.

The initiative helped lift thousands of farmers into markets and improve their incomes through sustainable yield gains. Throughout the endeavour, we had to confront first-hand the impacts of climate and natural resource volatility. This combined with what I had learned through one of my previous data analytics ventures led me to become fascinated by AI’s potential to help people become resource-smart and adapt to the new climate reality through timely science-based decisions.

This was ultimately the inspiration for Cervest and I set out to find like-minded people from around the world to help me turn this into a reality with a singular purpose: to secure the long-term restoration and resilience of our planet, by pioneering ‘Earth Science AI’. Now we are a team of over 20 including scientists, computational statisticians, machine learning experts and talent from industry aiming to encode climate into mission-critical decisions. We recently secured investment from ‘deep-tech meets nature’ investors Astanor Ventures and Future Positive Capital – and both are highly aligned to our mission.

How do you see technology shaping the future of farming and land management?

We have less than 35 growing seasons to double food production in order to meet the needs of a nine-billion+ population. Yet Earth’s soil fertility is rapidly degrading, and climate volatility is increasing, with the impacts being felt on the frontline by businesses relying on crop supplies and farmers who produce our food, as well as governments setting policy, insurance companies and financial institutions.

Cervest is changing the landscape using Earth Science AI to bring clarity to decision making around all land-based processes - not just farming. We believe that humans and intelligent machines have unrivalled potential to co-solve the world’s biggest food security challenges. Our technology puts our customers on the front line of nature, with the power to be part of the solution – ultimately protecting our planet and its productive land, promoting efficiency by limiting waste and ensuring food security for the future. We need to recognise the scale of the challenge and how the power of AI can augment human decisions.

Food Matters Summit is bringing together a huge range of international speakers looking at the future of food – how important is this collaboration?

The future of food is dependent on interconnected elements including land, water, biodiversity, climate and weather. And it is a global challenge, not just a local one. So it is imperative that it should be addressed at this systemic level and through collaboration.