Scythe & Spade adds ex-HNRG exec in US Delta role

Addison Taylor says new fund managers and foreign investors are driving an evolution of farmland markets in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Addison Taylor

Agricultural investment-focused professional services firm Scythe & Spade has hired former Hancock Natural Resource Group executive Addison Taylor to serve as regional director for the US Delta region.

Taylor joins Scythe & Spade after eight years as associate director and acquisitions manager for the southern region at HNRG (which now operates as Manulife Investment Management), per his LinkedIn profile. According to Scythe & Spade’s late August announcement of the hire, his time with Hancock included the acquisition of more than 80,000 farmland acres across seven states, valued at more than $300 million.

Taylor told Agri Investor that while his role with HNRG did focus on the US Delta states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, the position also included experience across the country. He will continue to be based in Springdale, Arkansas, for Scythe & Spade in a role focused on US Delta markets, where water access and large properties have long drawn institutional capital.

“The investor landscape is changing,” he said. “There’s always going to be large landowners in an area that buy land near their operations to expand for different reasons, but you also see foreign investment here. You’re seeing a lot more smaller groups of investors coming together to buy properties. Some of the newer fund managers are coming in. The competition and buyer pool has grown in the Delta.”

Taylor said he has known Grandview, Idaho-headquartered Scythe & Spade’s founder Brett MacNeil for about a decade and was attracted to the firm after observing a need in the market for bridging the gaps between investors and operators.

“Finding out all the reasons why someone would not want to buy the property; that’s something you don’t really see in the marketplace – if at all – people who are willing to point out the deficiencies that are there,” he added. “In addressing those upfront, ultimately, you have a better outcome for your client, whether buyer or a seller.”

Scythe & Spade was founded in 1998 by MacNeill, who served as director of acquisitions at HNRG for three years ending in June 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. It utilizes its broad network and a proprietary FarmBase data analysis system to help advise investors, producers and vendors throughout US agriculture on matters including due diligence and collateral control.

MacNeil explained that rather than compete with the array of investors that have raised billions to invest in US ag, Scythe & Spade has positioned itself to serve as trusted adviser to as many owners, operators and producers as possible. He said a majority of the firm’s collective time is spent working with high-net-worth investors, and that its clients also include some of the largest family-owned producers in the US.

Whereas the seller in real estate transactions typically pays for all services involved, MacNeil explained, Scythe & Spade prefers to establish retainer agreements with its clients in order share the risk of investigating potential deals.

“A lot of the professional investors are looking at their trusted advisers on the transactions side much like they look at their other professionals, like their attorneys, engineers or accountants, and want them aligned,” he said.

“The trend is moving more towards reducing the overhead, reducing the fee structure, being more competitive with the investors that you are working with as a fund and getting the expertise outside the house, but in the region, so you can make better decisions.”