By Lynda Kiernan,
March 7, 2018
Viridis Ag, the latest agriculture-focused venture launched by Macquarie, has purchased its first Australian farm in a deal rumored to be valued at A$32 million (US$25 million).
The first property to be included in the Viridis Ag portfolio is The Grange, located in Western Australia. Previously owned and sold by Wellard CEO Mauro Balzarini, the 16,500-hectare property had been operated as a livestock operation. Under Viridis Ag’s new ownership, however, the property will be converted to a cropping operation, in fitting with the company’s goal of building a diverse portfolio of agricultural properties that integrate the latest precision ag technologies into their production methods, which span a range of geographic regions, and climates, as well as serve a variety of markets.
“This was the first farm for Viridis Ag, and it’s in line with our broad strategy to have a significant and diversified row-crop farming investment, dryland as well as irrigated,” Sean O’Reilly, division director of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and head of Crop Australia, told Grain Central.
Since Viridis Ag is currently raising funds, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations prevent much release of information about the venture. It is however known that the company’s board includes three directors from Lawson Grains, including O’Reilly, and Michael Carroll, former chief of NAB Agribusiness. The life of Viridis’ investments could range anywhere from 10 to 15 years to an evergreen structure.
Grain Central reports that Lawson owns and operates a portfolio of 10 diverse cropping properties stretching across New South Wales and Western Australia; an achievement that Viridis Ag is looking to replicate through properties producing wheat, canola, barley, lupins, chickpeas, and summer crops. In addition, a feature consistent to all Viridis properties would be a dedication to engaging with research initiatives and the inclusion of sustainable practices including soil amelioration and precision ag.
Precision Farming Gaining Attention
Although information about Viridis Ag is restricted, The Australian Financial Review recently reported that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) made its first equity investment into the agriculture sector, investing $100 million in a fund launched by Macquarie that will have a focus on precision farming, and which will eventually include on-site teams supported by Viridis Ag.
Although the CEFC has provided $800 million in debt facilities in the agriculture sector, this investment, which was included in the first round of funding raised by the unnamed fund, is the first direct investment in ag for the financing body focused on green investments.
“The opportunity was presented to us where we could invest in a fund and drive some behavioral changes,” CEFC CEO Ian Learmounth told AFR. “It’s about improving farming efficiency and standards, reducing emissions around agriculture, particularly in cropping.”
Lynda Kiernan is Editor with GAI Media and daily contributor to GAI News.