Next up in the IGNITE Finalist blog series is Christopher Nankervis from England. In this Q&A, Christopher tell us about his experience with mapping and a little bit about the Smart M.App he is building, Climate-Smart Crop.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I live in Nottingham, the old English home of the heroic outlaw and city of European-leading sustainability. My new office space is located at The University of Nottingham’s Innovation Park in a building nicknamed ‘Starship Enterprise’.
Q: Where did you attend school and what did you study? Why did you choose this subject?
A: I first studied meteorology at the University of Reading. I found it a fascinating subject and so embarked onto a PhD programme at the University of Edinburgh where I proudly earned a doctorate in 2013.
What I find great about meteorology is its challenging blend of subjects, a perfect recipe for exciting new discoveries. Cross-disciplinary networks with academia now underline my core business activities, building on several fields of expertise.
Q: Where do you currently work? What is your job? What are your responsibilities?
A: After two years working on a business support team, Weather Logistics was founded in 2014. I currently work full-time as the CEO and scientific director. I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of the business as well as developing and directing product developments. Sustainability is something I am passionate to deliver in the company’s values, targeting revenue streams in both agriculture and energy. The company’s vision is to secure food and energy supply in a future of more extreme seasonal climate.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do during your free time?
A: I’m a keen cyclist and love to explore the outdoors. My dream spare time involves off-road cycling, ideally downhill, or visiting country houses and gardens. My summer holiday abroad often combines a range of activities: white-water rafting, canoeing, mountain biking or climbing in the idyllic Alpine resorts.
Q: Where did your interest in geospatial/mapping/information services come from?
A: During my postgraduate research I compared information from several satellite instruments by mapping their measurement footprints. While my research did not involve weather prediction, the techniques provided a powerful platform to develop exciting new products. This sparked my enthusiasm to exploit my specialist area.
Weather Logistics’ first challenge was a technical phase to prototype a new forecast system, which combines information from different sources. This proved successful. It both improved forecast accuracy and built a clearer picture of the UK’s seasonal weather conditions.
Previously based in Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute, I promoted a business competition using Europe’s own version of GPS. Its unique feature was the ability to locate to within several inches – with many new mobile apps exploiting this. This is where I first discovered the vast market opportunities for more localised data.
Q: How did you hear about IGNITE?
A: IGNITE was introduced to me by a Hexagon Geospatial partner while at a networking event at Leicester’s National Space Centre. I was exploring platforms for visualising our forecast products – and discovered a competition geared up for people just like us!
Q: Why are you excited about this competition?
A: The IGNITE competition provides us an opportunity to develop a product that addresses a UN Global sustainability goal: food security. The Smart M.App platform is a more effective solution to others, that provides a channel to market our product to a wide professional network. With Hexagon Geospatial’s support, we hope to deliver our low-cost solution to many growers without requiring bespoke contracts.
Q: What is the problem your Smart M.App addresses?
A: Crop management needs to become more sustainable, as the world population continues to grow and available space for cropped land-use declines. The trend is toward low profit margins for growers, with small-holders worst impacted. At the same time technologies are on the market that require expensive field surveying. These are inaccessible to many smallholders.
Q: What is your Smart M.App called?
A: We’re calling our product “Climate-Smart Crop,” since it will deliver unique insights into seasonal climate variability that will increase the preparedness of growers of all sizes and types to their personal risks posed during the crop growth life-cycle.
Q: What IGNITE Theme does it support?
A: Our core vision is to tackle global food security.
Q: What does it do?
A: We envision our Smart M.App. will tackle the global issues of food security and climate change. Firstly, it will advise on future environmental risks that impact early season decision making – and ultimately benchmark crop yield to optimise farm inputs. Climate-Smart Crop will empower growers.
Benefits include improved management of preventative spraying programmes to protect against climate-linked pests and diseases, advisories of crop yield benchmarks for variable-rate application, and better selection varieties and species best suited to the upcoming season. Wider benefits to the environment include reduction to both greenhouse gas emissions and local water pollution.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your Smart M.App?
A: We aim to deliver an insight tool to better manage crop growth. Climate-Smart Crop will be used to pilot our long-term forecasting capabilities and gain customer feedback to help build a more comprehensive crop management application. Our next milestone is to predict crop yield based on early-season vegetation monitoring, by generating analytics that show links between crop performance and seasonal weather conditions.
Learn more about cloud-based application development and Hexagon Smart M.Apps on our website.