Solum acquires California almond processor

Managing director Daniel Sachs says Monta Vista Farming Company forms the beginning of a vertical strategy focused on the midstream of the almond supply chain.

Solum Partners has acquired a majority stake in almond processor Monta Vista Farming Company in its second deal since spinning out from Harvard Management Company last year.

Financial details were undisclosed.

Solum managing director Daniel Sachs told Agri Investor the acquisition follows a previous investment into an unnamed specialty coffee platform, and is the beginning of a new vertical focused on the midstream of the almond supply chain.

“Almonds have had a quite healthy long-term demand profile, which we believe will continue,” said Sachs, who previously served as a portfolio manager for HMC’s natural resource portfolio according to his LinkedIn profile. “You are at the center of almond-world by having an investment in California and we believe California will continue to be a key player in this market.”

Denair, California-headquartered Monte Vista is an almond sheller, huller and processor founded in 1985. It processed 50 million pounds and hulled 30 million pounds of almonds sourced from a network of independent growers last year. Its almonds were marketed in more than 20 countries under the California Royale brand.

Solum chief executive and former HMC managing director Colin Butterfield told Agri Investor last year the firm planned crop-specific verticals epitomized by California Olive Rach, a Chico, California-headquartered olive producer his team at Harvard worked to develop.

After identifying specific crops, said Butterfield, Solum would pursue opportunities throughout distinct supply chains through acquisitions, joint ventures or majority and minority investments involving companies active in the same crop.

“We see this as an almond vertical, starting in the midstream of the chain,” Sachs said of Solum’s Monte Vista investment. “At this point, we’re not growers and we’re not in consumer products.”

Future investments at Monte Vista, according to Sachs, are likely to focus on increasing automation and technology to help keep pace with increasingly stringent food safety regulations.

“As clients and growers get more focused on the traceability and transparency of how their product is being dealt with and where it’s being shipped to, that obviously offers an opportunity for more institutionalized hullers and processors,” he explained.

Sachs declined to identify the vehicle from which Solum made the Monte Vista investment.

The firm secured a $200 million investment from American International Group when it spun out from HMC. Solum managed a total of $1.5 billion in assets across at least two distinct vehicles and at least one separately managed account as of March, according to a regulatory filing. The filing also identifies “plant-based production opportunities” in core areas of North America, South America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand as a key focus for the firm.

Butterfield told Agri Investor in October farms in Chile and Peru and a minority stake in COR were among the assets formerly managed by HMC that are now being managed by Solum.

In April, Solum sold 2,285 acres of Tehama County, California farmland to Gladstone Land in a $37.8 million deal announced simultaneously with a 15-year triple-net lease agreement between Gladstone and COR, of which Sachs serves as chairman of the board, according to his LinkedIn profile.