Field Notes: Nuveen and Stafford raise more than $1bn between them; Paine Schwartz gets Costa deal approval; Exemplary Forestry launches impact fund

Nuveen raises $550 million across forestry and farmland strategies; Stafford raises $635 million for $1 billion forestry fund; Paine Schwartz gets deal approval from Costa board; Exemplary Forestry launches impact fund, deals round-up, and more. Welcome to Field Notes, the start-of-the-week briefing for our valued subscribers only. Tips and feedback to:

First look

Scaling up: Nuveen and Stafford Capital Partners have taken more $1bn between them for their forestry and farmland vehicles. (Image: Getty)

Nuveen takes $550m for farmland and forestry funds

Nuveen Natural Capital has raised more than $280 million over the past year for its open-end farmland vehicle and more than $300 million for its distinct forestry fund, according to regulatory filings.

The open-end 2019-vintage Nuveen Global Farmland Fund has raised $1.3 billion from 41 LPs, according to a January filing.

A comparison between a January 2023 filing for the Global Farmland Fund and the January 2024 filing shows Nuveen raised $284 million from an additional 14 LPs in the 12-month period.

A separate filing shows $305 million raised for its open-end Nuveen Global Timberland Fund, which was launched in November 2022.

Read the full story here.

Stafford edges closer to $1bn target

Stafford Capital Partners has raised $635 million for the 10th iteration of its Stafford International Timberland Fund.

SIT X is a secondaries timberland vehicle launched in January 2023 and has a $1 billion fundraising target.

The firm said in an investor update: “The accelerating support for timberland as an asset class is illustrative of the growing net-zero aspirations of institutional investors globally, with significant mandates now in from a mix of institutional investors from the UK, US, Korea and Germany, including the UK Local Government Pension Scheme, as well as other pension funds and insurance firms.”

Stafford also has the Carbon Offset Opportunity Fund in market, which also has a $1 billion target and held a $242 million first close in February 2023.

The carbon vehicle is an Article 9 impact fund and will make secondaries investments as well investing in afforestation, natural forest restoration and improved forest management projects across global markets.

Read the full story here.

Virescent Ventures targets A$200m for Fund II

Australian venture capital firm Virescent Ventures has launched its second fund after deploying more than A$260 million ($171 million; €158 million) through its first Clean Energy Innovation Fund.

Fund II has a target of A$200 million and, like the first fund, will focus on climate-related technologies for sectors including agriculture and the energy transition.

Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation launched CEIF in 2016 and established Virescent Ventures in 2022 to manage it.

CEFC’s original plan, which it did not pursue, was to create a A$1 billion fund (registration required) in partnership with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). ARENA remains on CEIF’s investment committee.

CEFC provided all the capital for CEIF I and will be a cornerstone investor for Virescent’s second fund, which will also seek investment from the private sector, including from family offices.

Read the full story here.

They said it

“All the farmers are suffering from the low-price environment. Whether you are just next door to Ukraine or you are a farmer in France, they are all affected in exactly the same way. Nobody is explaining that or trying to put that forward”

Romania-based Black See grain trader Gert Bosscher says a misunderstanding of what has caused low global commodity prices has harmed EU farmer perceptions of what Ukraine’s accession could mean for the bloc.

Natural capital

Exemplary Forestry impact fund

A non-profit asset manager launched by the New England Forestry Foundation, Maine Mountain Collaborative and Quantified Ventures has launched an impact fund and acquired its first asset.

Exemplary Forestry Management’s Exemplary Forestry Investment Fund acquired the 3,000-acre Scammon Ridge Headwaters property in Maine in a deal where financial details were undisclosed.

The vehicle has taken commitments from private, public and philanthropic institutions but the firm did not disclose how much capital it has raised to date. It has a $90 million target.

Exemplary Forestry Management was established to invest exclusively in the US state of Maine to improve sustainable forest management and deliver better financial outcomes.

EFIF aims to acquire approximately 100,000 acres of Maine forestry and manage it using the “climate-smart Exemplary Forestry approach developed by NEFF to improve carbon storage, long-term forest health, wildlife habitat and sustainable timber value and production in partnership with local communities,” said a statement from the firm.

Read the full story here.

SLM partners up

SLM Partners last week gave an update on a series of partnerships it has established with specialist carbon project developers in the US, Europe and Australia, with the firm now managing more than 300,000ha of land around the world.

In the US, the firm has partnered with non-profit Ecosystem Service Market Consortium on what it says is the first large-scale pilot to assess the carbon benefits of transitioning traditional cropland into organic-certified land in the American Midwest

Results published in January 2024 showed that organic conversion reduced carbon emissions and increased soil carbon sequestration, at a rate of more than one tonne of CO2 per ha in the first year.

In Europe, SLM is partnering with two developers: German-headquartered Climate Farmers, where it and SLM are co-funding development of the first carbon credit accounting methodology for Mediterranean orchards; and forestry-focused Ecobase, where the two are working on adapting improved forest management methodologies for generating carbon credits for the European market.

And in Australia, the firm launched a joint venture in 2023 with Impact Ag Partners, with the duo set to invest together in cropping and livestock properties to deploy regenerative agriculture techniques and carbon projects.

Cultivo’s raise

Cultivo, a start-up that co-designs and monitors nature-based projects to measure increases in carbon capture, biodiversity and water storage, as well as measure the impact that has on local communities and land stewards, has raised $14 million in a Series A funding round.

The round was co-led by MassMutual Ventures and UK-based Octopus Energy Generation, with participation also coming from Salkantay Ventures and Peña Verde. The commitments take Cultivo’s total funding to more than $20 million.

As part of the deal, Octopus Energy Generation also agreed to deploy up to $40 million into natural capital projects across North America, Europe and Australasia through Cultivo.

Cultivo had a strong 2023, welcoming former Bank of England governor and Brookfield Asset Management’s current chair and head of transition investing Mark Carney onto its board. Its pipeline of natural capital projects also surpassed 100 million ha, which it says has the potential to remove more than three gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Paine Schwartz takeover of Costa Group wins shareholder backing

Costa Group shareholders have voted in favor of a takeover deal led by Paine Schwartz Partners, in a transaction worth around A$1.5 billion.

The private equity firm will acquire all the remaining shares in Costa that it does not already own, paying A$3.20 per share in cash.

Investing alongside Paine Schwartz are British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and US-headquartered berry grower Driscoll’s.

Agri Investor understands that some of the capital for the deal has come from Paine Schwartz Partners’ Food Chain Fund VI, which reached a final close in September 2023 on $1.7 billion, ahead of its $1.5 billion target. It is also among the largest individual deals by value that Paine Schwartz has undertaken.

Costa Group is one of Australia’s leading listed agribusinesses, operating more than 7,200ha of planted farmland, 40ha of glasshouse facilities and three mushroom-growing facilities, as well as majority-owned joint ventures operating six blueberry farms in Morocco and four berry farms in China.

Read the full story here.

International consortium takes control of Carlyle’s Accolade Wines

An international consortium of five institutional investors will acquire equity ownership of Australia’s Accolade Wines from the Carlyle Group as part of a recapitalization plan to fortify the company’s finances.

Australian Wine Holdco Limited (AWL) comprises funds managed by London-based Intermediate Capital Group and Sona Asset Management, Copenhagen-based Capital Four, Boston-based Bain Capital Special Situations and Sydney-based Samuel Terry Asset Management.

Accolade Wines is one of the world’s largest wine companies with more than 50 brands including Hardys and Banrock Station.

The consortium will take control of the company from its current shareholders.

A Carlyle spokesperson said that despite Accolade’s efforts, macroeconomic conditions affecting the wine industry had impacted the company’s profitability and made its debt levels unsustainable.

Read the full story here.

Market outlook

Optimism in Australian ag

The forecast looks bright for Australian agriculture, according to Rabobank’s annual outlook report.

Buoyed by a mild El Niño and reduced input costs, major agricultural sectors can approach 2024 with confidence, RaboResearch general manager for Australia and New Zealand Stefan Vogel said.

“Grain farmers are set to plan more optimistically for the purchase of farm inputs and the upcoming planting period for winter crops like wheat, barley and canola, especially in the growing areas outside Western Australia, which was the only region that hasn’t received much rain.”

Vogel said beef and sheep farmers should benefit from holding livestock for longer and going to market with heavier animals, with promising prospects for farm-grown feed.

However, the report does caution that Australia’s stretched labor market could prove a headache for the sector, while geopolitical issues, including military activity around the Red Sea, could affect freight and economic links with China remain fragile.


Bregal hires NGO veteran for natural capital push

Bregal Investments, a private equity firm with five separate fund strategies, has added a sixth in the form of a natural capital impact strategy, Bregal Sphere Nature, reports affiliate title New Private Markets.

Bregal established the unit last year, when it appointed Alvar de Wolff, its former head of ESG and responsible investing and an influencer in private markets sustainability, to lead its push into impact.

The firm has now hired Agustin Silvani, formerly head of conservation finance at Conservation International, to lead Sphere’s first strategy alongside de Wolff as joint managing partner.

Silvani spent 14 years as chief investment officer of Conservation International Ventures, the NGO’s impact investing arm.

Read the full story here.

VC fundraising

Inari, a US-based seed developer, completed a $103 million equity raise backed by Flagship Pioneering, CPP Investments, Hanwha Impact, Rivas Capital, NGS Super and the State of Michigan Retirement System.

ProducePay, a California-based start-up working to strengthen the fresh produce supply chains, raised a $38 million Series D funding round led by Syngenta Group Ventures with participation from Commonfund, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital and Astanor Ventures, among others.

Voyage Foods, a California-based start-up that produces cocoa-free spreads and pastries, completed a £22 million ($28 million; €26 million) funding round supported by Valor Equity Partners, Horizons Ventures, UBS O’Connor and Level One Fund, among others.

Planet A Foods, a German fermentation start-up that develops develops cocoa-free ingredients, has raised a $15.4 million funding round led by World Fund with participation from Omnes Capital, Cherry Ventures, Mudcake, Nucleus Capital, TriplePoint Capital and Feast Ventures, among others.

Saga Robotics, a Norwegian agricultural robotics start-up, raised $11.5 million in a funding round backed by Nysnø Climate Investment, Aker, Rabo Ventures, Hatteland, Melesio Capital, Sanden and Songa Investments.

Xampla, a UK-based start-up that is developing alternatives to plastic packaging, completed a $7 million funding round backd by Amadeus Capital Partners, Cambridge Angels, Horizon Ventures, Martlet Capital, Cambridge Enterprise and CIECH Ventures.

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DOWNLOAD: Infrastructure fundraising drops by 35% in 2023
Only $112 billion was raised by closed-end structures last year compared with a high of $172 billion in 2022 (Infrastructure Investor [registration required]).

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How monopoly power tripled the profits of global agricultural commodity traders in the past three years (SOMO).

Former Palestinian refugee, now Rich Lister buys NT cattle station
The Shahin family’s $2 billion revenue-generating Peregrine Corporation has acquired its first broadacre farming property and entered the beef sector (AFR).

Leon co-founder seeks ‘better ways to feed the world’
Henry Dimbleby has announced the establishment of Bramble Partners, a venture capital firm that has raised a £50 million fund (FoodBev).

Turning the tide: The quest for ocean biodiversity data
Ocean ecosystems have traditionally been a blind spot in biodiversity data (Responsible Investor [registration required]).