New Forests launches New Agriculture and targets global farmland portfolio

New Agriculture will be led by Bruce King, who joined the firm in 2022, and will manage the Lawson Grains portfolio it acquired in 2021.

L-R: Ben Pickles, Bruce King, Ben Mason, Jamie Lord

Asset manager New Forests has formed a new business division, New Agriculture, that will build a global portfolio of agriculture assets beginning in Australia and New Zealand.

The firm has appointed four investment professionals to lead the new unit. Bruce King will lead the division and joined as director of agriculture in July 2022 following more than three years as chief executive of the Regional Investment Corporation, among other roles at Blue Sky Alternative Investments and Rabobank prior to that.

Also on the team are portfolio manager Ben Mason, former vice-president, agriculture at Roc Partners, who joined in August 2022 and Ben Pickles, who joined as manager, operations in April 2022 following a stint as finance business partner – operations and investment at Kilcoy Global Foods.

Jamie Lord has been appointed as manager, investments – he joined New Forests in 2013 and has been managing the firm’s existing portfolio of agricultural assets as well as taking responsibility for divesting assets.

Before launching the new division, New Forests made its largest foray into agriculture to date in 2021 with the acquisition of the 100,000-hectare Lawson Grains cropping portfolio in Australia from Macquarie Asset Management. Lord led that transaction, which also saw Alberta Investment Management Corporation participate as a co-investor.

The New Agriculture business will manage the Lawson Grains portfolio before expanding and acquiring other assets. In a statement, New Forests said the division’s objective is to “manage these assets for market-leading investment returns through sustainable agricultural production while also aligning with New Forests’ strategic impact objectives to contribute to nature-based solutions, shared prosperity and the circular bioeconomy.”

Mark Rogers, senior managing director, Australia, New Zealand and the US, said in a statement: “New Agriculture builds upon New Forests’ 17-year track record managing forestry and other landscapes for sustainable production.

”Like forestry, agriculture is a real asset which provides investors with a strong cash yield, a natural inflation hedge and is uncorrelated to other asset classes. By combining our experience in forestry with agriculture, we can seek to optimize the value of the land between sustainable food and fiber production, carbon sequestration, conservation and community benefits. We believe that improving agricultural land management and optimizing landscapes for multiple uses will help the global economy transition to a sustainable future.”

New Forests is headquartered in Sydney and has more than A$8.7 billion ($5.9 billion; €5.9 billion) of assets under management across 1.1 million hectares of investments, comprising sustainable timber plantations and conservation areas, carbon and conservation finance projects, agriculture, timber processing and infrastructure assets.

The firm was acquired by Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co and financial services group Nomura in 2022, who will together hold a majority stake in the business. New Forests staff will retain a 10 percent minority stake.