By Mark Anderson  – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business JournalApr 4, 2019, 2:59pm PDT Updated Apr 4, 2019, 9:28pm EDT

Brooklyn, New York-based indoor farming company Gotham Greens Holdings LLC has bought 33.6 acres of ag land just west of the University of California Davis.

Gotham was founded 10 years ago, and pioneered urban farming technologies, growing herbs and salads in rooftop hydroponic greenhouses in downtowns and selling the produce to neighbors and restaurants year-round.

With this purchase, Gotham gets land next to one of the highest-rated agriculture research universities in the world, said Jim Wirth, farmland broker with TRI Commercial/CORFAC International.

Wirth represented the seller, which was UC Davis. The school deemed the land at 9113 Olmo Road to be surplus, and the university put it on the market earlier this year in a sealed bid process. Gotham was the wining bidder at $954,000.

“One of the drivers was the proximity to UC Davis and having access to the university’s research programs and students,” Wirth said.

He said UC Davis was happy with the buyer being an ag technology company, but the university didn’t have any control over who ultimately purchased the land. “At the end of the day it had to go to the highest bidder.”

Most of Gotham Greens’ grows are on urban rooftops, where the company uses technology and sustainable practices to grow pesticide-free produce hydroponically.

The company couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about what it will do with the former UC Davis farmland.

Pam Marrone, CEO of Davis-based Marrone Bio Innovations Inc., said she was at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco two weeks ago, and there was talk of Gotham bringing one of its high-tech operations to the region.

Gotham is known for its hydroponic grows, Wirth said, which “is ironic because this is Class 1 soil,” which is considered the highest-quality soil.  

One of the benefits of hydroponic growing is that the greenhouse and lack of soil allow for control of pests, food safety and a year-round operation.

The land, which is next to Interstate 80, has a boarded-up 100-year-old farmhouse on it, along with a farm outbuilding and an office. It was donated to the university decades ago, Wirth said.

See the original article here.

By Mark Anderson  – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business JournalFeb 21, 2019, 9:01am EST

A Boston-based investment manager has paid $7.1 million for 638 acres of agricultural land near Lincoln in Placer County, according to property records.

The land was purchased in two parcels of 478 acres and 160 acres.

The buyer, Hancock Agricultural Investment Group, is a subsidiary of Boston-based Manulife Asset Management, whose affiliate companies also include John Hancock Asset Management.

The recent sale, along with several other recent investments in agricultural land for wine grapesalmonds and olives, shows an increasing interest by East Coast institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies in buying ag land, especially for high-value crops.

“Institutional investment goes in waves,” said Jim Wirth, Senior Vice President with TRI Commercial/CORFAC International. “Especially when traditional investments are taking a beating, agriculture is seen as a good way to diversify a portfolio.” Wirth was not involved with this transaction.

“Ag has always had pretty consistent returns,” Wirth added. “You are buying a good investment over time, plus you have the underlying asset.”

Representatives of Hancock Agricultural didn’t respond to calls or emails seeking comment.

Hancock Agricultural has $3 billion in farmland assets under management. One of its larger concentrations of investment is in California, where it manages more than 65,000 acres. Its primary crops are almonds, pistachios, walnuts and wine grapes, and it has some smaller investments in alfalfa, olives and vegetables, according to its website. Its parent company, Manulife, had $93.4 billion in assets under management at the end of 2018, according to its website.

The land north of Lincoln appears to have been used to grow rice in the past and olives in recent years, based on Google satellite and ground images.

Hancock Agricultural touts production crops as good assets on its website because they offer “attractive returns, excellent capital preservation, portfolio diversification, low to moderate risk and a low correlation to traditional assets such as equities and bonds.”

To view the original article click here.

By Mark Anderson  – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal,
Mar 8, 2019, 9:40am EST

A Boston private investment fund has bought another large tract of land in Yolo County for $24.2 million, which includes 750 acres of 5-year-old almond orchards and walnut groves.

JJB Farms LP of Escondido has bought another tract of Yolo County farmland, which it will likely convert from row crops to nuts.

The company paid $4.5 million for 322 acres that had been called the Herger Ranch. The property is flat farmland at 17017 County Road 89, just northwest of Madison.

“It’s really good dirt,” said Jeff Dyer, a broker with Farm & Ranch Realty in Woodland. He represented the seller, a family.

Representatives of the buyer, JJB Farms, declined to comment about the purchase.

JJB was founded by Jacob Brouwer, who also owns and operates Superior Ready Mix Concrete LP in Escondido.

In recent years, Brouwer has expanded his investing into agriculture.

The north end of the Herger property is cut across by Cache Creek, which flows west to east. On either side of the farm parcel, Houston-based Cemex USA operates an aggregate and ready mix concrete plant on Cache Creek.

Arnold Veldkamp, corporate counsel for Superior, said the newly purchased property’s proximity to the Cemex plant is a coincidence. He said the JJB Farms purchase is an agricultural investment.

Properties on either side of the Herger property have been converted to almonds and walnuts in recent years, Dyer said, and he expects that is what will happen to this property.

In December, JJB bought a 338-acre Yolo County almond orchard for $7.5 million. That property, on County Road 87 between Esparto and Woodland, had been used up until 2014 by the Hatanaka family to grow tomatoes, sunflower seed plants, alfalfa and wheat, according to county agricultural records.

In the past three years, however, the land has been converted to almonds, said Jim Wirth, farm land broker with TRI Commercial/CORFAC International. Wirth was not the broker for the land’s recent sale, but said he is aware of the deal. Wirth said JJB owns thousands of acres of walnuts, almonds and pistachios in the Central Valley and also to the north.

Almonds have been an increasingly popular crop for California farmers the last two decades because they are a high-value crop which has seen stable prices despite increasing yield. Last year, almond production in the state totaled 2.3 billion pounds, up almost 80 percent from a decade earlier and almost five times the volume produced in 1998, according to figures from the Almond Board of California.

Sacramento-based almond growers’ cooperative Blue Diamond Growers has been driving demand for the crop with new products such as almond milk and different flavors of almonds. The climate in the Central Valley is one of the few on earth that works for commercial cultivation of almonds, and more than 80 percent of the world crop comes from California.

This most recent purchase shows continuing interest from investors from other regions in local farmland as investment properties. In February, Boston-based Hancock Agricultural Investment Group paid $7.1 million for 638 acres of agricultural land in Placer County. In July, Boston-based private equity firm AgIS Capital LLC paid $35 million for part of the former R.H. Phillips Winery property near Esparto, and in October, AgIS paid $24.2 million for some almond orchards near Winters.

View original article here.