Globe and Mail | 24 November 2010
by Paul Waldie
Global investment funds have sunk as much as $20-billion (U.S.) into farmland, last year alone they bought 111 million acres of farmland, a tenfold increase from previous years. Here are some of the biggest buyers in agriculture real estate:
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
The Mormons have a history of buying farmland. Today the church owns more than $5-billion (U.S.) worth of farmland in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Britain. One holding is Deseret Ranches, a 290,000-acre property in Florida that is one of the largest ranches in the United States.
This $400-billion pension fund for U.S. academics and researchers has been investing in agriculture since 2007 and owns roughly $2-billion worth of farmland in North America, South America, Australia and Europe. It recently bought Westchester Group Inc., which manages more than $1-billion in agricultural assets, including nearly 320,000 acres of farmland in the United States and Australia.
Hancock Agricultural Investment Group
A division of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp., HAIG manages about $1.3-billion worth of farmland. That includes 210,000 acres in the United States, 6,000 acres in Australia and a 1,000-acre cranberry farm in Quebec.
Black Earth Farming Ltd.
Based in Sweden, Black Earth owns 810,000 acres of farmland in Russia. The company formed in 2005 after Russia changed its land ownership laws to make them more investor-friendly.
UBS AgriVest LLC.
Based in Hartford, Conn., UBS AgriVest has about $524-million worth of farmland investments in the United States. It is now looking to invest in South America.
An Argentine company founded in 1936 as a farm lender, it is now a major farm owner. It owns or leases more than two million acres in Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay.
Based in Brazil, its farmland holdings have more than doubled in four years and it now has interests in 550,000 acres across Brazil.
AgCapita Partners, Calgary
Has about $100-million in assets and more than 30,000 acres, mostly in Saskatchewan.
Assiniboia Capital Corp., Regina
Owns roughly 100,000 acres of Saskatchewan farmland and has about $65-million in assets under management.
Bonnefield Financial Inc., Toronto
Launched a farmland limited partnership fund this year and bought five properties in Saskatchewan, one in Manitoba and one in Ontario for a total of 6,500 acres.
Pike Management Group, Calgary
Offers consulting services and a farmland fund with about 100,000 acres mainly in Saskatchewan.
One Earth Farms Corp.A partnership between Toronto-based Sprott Resource Corp. and a group of first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, One Earth aims to have one million acres of land under management.