New Forests has established an agriculture management division, New Agriculture, seeded with a 100,000-hectare aggregation jointly owned with Canada’s Alberta Investment Management Company (AIMCo).

The initial asset, Lawson Grains, was acquired from Macquarie Asset Management a year ago for A$600m (€409.5m).

Mark Rogers, New Forests’s senior managing director Australia, New Zealand and the US, told IPE Real Assets that AIMCo intended to step up its investment in agriculture in Australia and overseas and would no doubt try to use the Lawson Grains aggregation as an investment vehicle to do that.

“We will also explore with AIMCo the possibility of investing up and down the supply chain, as we have done in our forestry business. We own a port and milling and chipping businesses, each of which has benefitted our clients over the past decade.”

Bruce King, the newly appointed director of agriculture at New Agriculture, said Lawson Grains owned farmland in NSW and Western Australia, giving it geographical spread across different production zones.

“Our primary focus is to build out the Australian platform and a deal pipeline in the local market, and if we can draw in some international investors (from Europe and the UK) to expand our investor base we will look at opportunities in other countries.”

Rogers added: “We expect it to be a global business in the long term, but first we want to prove up the Australian component.”

In time, New Agriculture will invest in other developed markets where land access is possible. It may also look to emerging markets – Asia and Africa – although land access in these countries “would be difficult”, he said.

Rogers said New Forests had managed AIMCo’s investment in forestry over a long time in Australia where the Canadian pension fund had diverse exposure – ranging from infrastructure to real estate.

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