Fund Manager of the Year
WINNER: Roc Partners
RUNNER UP: Warakirri Asset Management
The Sydney-based private equity firm Roc Partners raised the bulk of its first agriculture-focused fund last year, securing backing from Australian superannuation funds on the way to a A$40 million ($30 million; €44 million) first close in 2021 before nearing a final close by year end. The firm was busy last year, chasing numerous deals and acquiring several assets on behalf of its fund and other vehicles. The firm has been active in the sector for many years through its majority ownership of wagyu beef producer Stone Axe Pastoral Company and saw an opportunity to extend its expertise with a sector-focused vehicle – an ambition it has achieved.
Institutional Investor of the Year
WINNER: Clean Energy Finance Corporation
RUNNER UP: PSP Investments
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation was established by the Australian government to make investments that would accelerate the country’s transition to net-zero emissions. In recent years it has begun to turn its attention to agriculture and was one of the most active institutional investors in the sector in Australia in 2021. This included committing A$50 million to the Transforming Farming Platform – an initiative aimed at lowering farming carbon intensity, integrating environmental management practices and generating Australian Carbon Credit Units. CEFC also invested in agtech company Loam Bio, as its long-term on-farm carbon measuring project FarmPrint becomes consumer ready.
Equity Fundraising of the Year
WINNER: Kilter Rural
RUNNER UP: Tenacious Ventures
Australian fund manager Kilter Rural closed its 2019-vintage Australian Farmlands Fund on A$60 million at the end 2021, an impressive result during what had proved to be a challenging fundraising environment thanks to coronavirus-enforced border closures making it impossible show investors assets in person. The 10-year closed-end fund targets impact investments in farmland, water and ecosystem assets in the southern Murray-Darling Basin and aims to achieve returns of 10-12 percent through 50 percent yield and 50 percent capital growth, and a roughly even split of investments in farmland and water. The vehicle will reach full deployment in 2022.
Deal of the Year
WINNER: Auscott (PSP Investments)
RUNNER UP: Lawson Grains (Alberta Investment Management Corporation, New Forests)
The winner of our Global Deal of the Year category, it is hard to ignore the scale and ambition behind Canadian pension PSP Investments’ acquisition (alongside a local farming family) of the Australian cotton producer Auscott in 2021. The joint venture beat off strong competition to take one of the most prized agribusiness assets to hit the market in years Down Under, cementing PSP’s position in particular as one of the largest foreign owners of water entitlements in the country and ensuring it remains a powerhouse in irrigated agriculture. Its willingness to take on all of Auscott in one line, rather than splitting the farmland assets from the operating business, was testament to its long-term outlook, too.
Farmland Deal of the Year
WINNER: Lawson Grains (Alberta Investment Management Corporation, New Forests)
RUNNER UP: THF portfolio (Rural Funds Management, THF Finance)
In one of the largest Australian farmland portfolios ever to be sold in one line, New Forests increased its diversification away from timberland assets through its purchase of Lawson Grains from Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets, alongside Canadian pension Alberta Investment Management Corporation. MIRA built up the portfolio over many years, creating a cropping enterprise that spanned 90,500 hectares of arable land across 10 aggregations, four in New South Wales and six in Western Australia. Lawson Grains was a highly prized asset, and New Forests and AIMCo deserver recognition for coming out on top.
Timberland Deal of the Year
WINNER: Green Triangle Forest Products (AXA IM Alts)
RUNNER UP: Wenita Forest Products (APG Asset Management, Pension Protection Fund, New Forests)
French asset manager AXA IM Alts made its first foray into Australian timberland with the A$700 million purchase of the Green Triangle Forest Products estate, in southeast South Australia and southwest Victoria, from funds managed by Global Forest Partners. The portfolio currently has an estimated carbon stock of over eight million tCO2 stored within the biomass of the forest – a figure that AXA IM Alts believes can be improved over time via adjustments to the planting and harvesting schedules. The assets cover more than 22,000ha of productive and sustainably managed forestry land, comprising a mixed-age portfolio of Radiata Pine forests, and will be managed by British firm Gresham House Forestry. The acquisition significantly adds to AXA IM Alts’ existing global portfolio of forestry assets, with the business managing almost 60,000ha across France, Ireland and Finland.
Agribusiness Deal of the Year
WINNER: Flavorite (Roc Partners)
RUNNER UP: Auscott (PSP Investments)
Roc Partners expanded its glasshouse tomato-growing business Flavorite in 2021 through a merger with businesses owned by the Murphy family in Victoria, formerly known as Murphy Fresh and Tatura Fresh. The firm said at the time of the deal that it would make Flavorite the largest owner and operator of glasshouses in Australia, with expansion plans underway to build more. It followed that up with a sale-and-leaseback deal with Centuria Group for some of the company’s glasshouses in October. The listed firm acquired a 50 percent stake in the Flavorite Warragul Glasshouse, with an obligation to buy the remaining 50 percent on the same terms within a six-month period.