Solum Partners acquires majority stake in Monte Vista Farming Company
By Lynda Kiernan-Stone
Solum Partners has made its second investment since its spin-out from Harvard Management in October 2020 – acquiring a majority position in Monte Vista Farming Company, a California-based almond huller, sheller, and processor.
Solum Partners began at the height of the pandemic, in October of 2020, when Harvard University’s $41.9 billion endowment spun off its natural resources portfolio and team into a new independently managed firm focused on investment opportunities in the global agriculture and food spaces.
This spin-out of its natural resources unit and formation of Solum Partners completed a strategic reorganization of HMC first begun in 2017 by N.P. Narvekar with the goal of phasing out in-house buyers in favor of shifting the fund’s assets to outside managers to handle.
Anchoring the new Boston-based firm, Harvard Management Co. and insurer American International Group Inc. (AIG) each committed $200 million, and are expected to also invest in assets being bought by the firm from Harvard.
Heading up this new firm and its team of more than 25 professionals as managing partner and CEO is Brazil native and former managing director and head of Natural Resources for HMC, Colin Butterfield. Butterfield joined HMC in 2016, replacing Alvaro Aguirre-Simunovic, who resigned from the position in October 2015 after 12 years with the company.
Butterfield commented in October 2020, “Our team sees an opportunity to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns by helping agricultural producers who need a true partner. We leverage our hands-on, owner-operator approach along with our deep sector expertise, experience in large scale operations, and world-class global network and asset base designed to add considerable value to our partners and our investors.”
Funded, and under its own mandate, Solum takes a hands-on approach and targets large-scale, efficient ag production assets that present potential for vertical integration into distribution and marketing channels. Today, the firm manages approximately $1.5 billion in AUM and a continually expanding portfolio across multiple key verticals including Ecoagricola – a Brazilian speciality coffee platform, and now, Monte Vista.
A growing awareness of health benefits and subsequent usage in a growing number of foods, especially as the vegan and organic food movements grow, has seen global demand for almonds on a growth trajectory for more than 10 years now. Between 2020 and 2025, the global almond market is expected to experience a CAGR of 4.47 percent to attain a total market value of $12.073 billion – up from a value of $9.286 billion in 2019, according to the Global Almond Market – Forecasts From 2020 – 2025 report issued in January of this year.
Within this landscape, California is the largest producer, with the largest tree nut crop in the world accounting for 80 percent of the world’s supply. And central to this market is Monte Vista and its independent growers, processing and distributing almonds to more than 20 countries each year.
“Monte Vista is a top processor with a track record of growth well above others in the California almond industry,” said Daniel Sachs, managing director, Solum. “We believe that with this partnership, Monte Vista’s growth will continue, driven in large part by its differentiated offering, which has earned it the loyalty of both almond growers and buyers. We share a long-term vision with Jonathan to build a larger almond platform; we believe in the long-term sustainability of the business.”