Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ag Chat Spotlights Investing at the Intersection of Agriculture and Technology


Smart, Smaller Scale Plays Land Private Equity Fund Comfortably in the Catbird Seat

By Marc Dresner, IBC Life Sciences

Michael Curry, managing partner at Investeco Capital, has carved out a plum investment niche in Canada’s burgeoning “intelligent agriculture” market for his firm and its clients.

While big private equity funds tend to concentrate on big deals with big companies to the tune of tens of millions, Investeco frequently takes minority stakes ($2-3 million) in early-mid-stage, modest players ($7-10 million rev.) who turn a tidy profit on a promising product with substantial growth potential.

“We don’t have a lot of competition for deal flow,” Curry told Ag Chat. “There is so little capital looking into these areas in Canada that the door is open when we go to see these companies.”

“These entrepreneurs are doing very well; they’re not prepared to sell half the company at this stage,” Curry added. “We like people who think long-term and not in short cycles. These businesses have to have compelling reasons to be around for a long time.”

Investeco’s fund pours expansion capital into agricultural and environmentally sustainable interests in four main areas: water, energy, food and technology.

According to Curry, the sweet spot often rests at the intersection of agriculture and technology: GPS navigation for tractors, variable rate application for seeding and fertilizer, UV water filtration, etc.

“To grow in a sustainable, economical manner going forward, [agribusiness is] going to have to increase yields and crops. We are going to have to use less energy doing so. We are going to have to use less water,” said Curry. “So we see tremendous opportunity in the marriage of technology and agriculture production.”

In this edition of Ag Chat, we’ll also explore:


• The trend toward de-commoditized, value-add food production


• The resurgence of local, resilient supply chains


• Why Wal-Mart is now selling organic milk…

Listen to Part 1.

Listen to Part 2.

Download the transcript.


ABOUT AG CHAT
Ag Chat is an executive interview series featuring the business experts, investors and entrepreneurs at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Each episode explores the trends, technologies and drivers shaping the world of sustainable agriculture today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/INTERVIEWER
Marc Dresner works closely with IBC Life Sciences as a communication lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the market research industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Massively Underpriced Post-Soviet Agriculture Market Promises Huge Returns


“AG Chat” Explores Eastern Europe's Enormous Investment Potential

For nearly 20 years, George Rohr and his partners have been gradually, meticulously nudging a sleeping giant—and cultivating what may be the most fertile agriculture investment opportunity on the planet.

Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, NCH Capital (Rohr is co-founder and president) began investing in Russia, Ukraine and post-Soviet Eastern Europe, whose black-earth belt ranks among the world’s greatest—and least optimized—agricultural resources.

“There is a massive shortage of capital that prevails across asset classes, across the geography and across eleven time zones,” said Rohr, who noted NCH has concentrated on bringing “some of the most productive farmland in the world back into productive capacity.”

NCH is today one of the largest Western investors of institutional capital in farmland and agribusiness assets in the region. Rohr says the quality of these assets wasn't the only attraction; they’re also ridiculously undervalued.

Before the Bolsheviks, this land constituted the Old World’s breadbasket. And after being mismanaged and relatively neglected for the better part of the 20th Century under the Soviets, Rohr says the new, progressive governments under whose stewardship this agricultural treasure fell opened the door to Western investors.

But Western investors have been slow to throw in, in cases preferring to cast lots with other emerging markets like Brazil and China—in no small measure due to innacuracies perpetuated by Western media, according to Rohr.

Consequently, NCH has been able—by direct purchase or lease—to acquire, aggregate and operationalize roughly 700,000 hectares of prime farmland in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries at a fraction of their actual value.

In this candid “Ag Chat” interview, George Rohr will:

• Outline NCH's approach to agriculture investment in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe

• Provide an overview of infrastructure and transport issues

• Address misconceptions with regard to property rights, transparency, governance, etc. facing prospective investors, and much more...


“You are going to see increasing diversification in [Russia and Ukraine] away from natural gas, oil and other harder natural resources as a source of foreign revenue toward agricultural commodities. This sector really is the sleeping giant for both countries,” said Rohr.

“There are great returns to be made from riding the elevator from the fourth subbasement to the ground floor,” he added, noting the market is maturing, and opportunities like this don't come often or last forever.

Listen to Part 1.

Download a transcript of Part 1.

Listen to Part 2.

Download a transcript of Part 2.


ABOUT AG CHAT
Ag Chat is an executive interview series featuring the business experts, investors and entrepreneurs at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Each episode explores the trends, technologies and drivers shaping the world of sustainable agriculture today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/INTERVIEWER
Marc Dresner works closely with IBC Life Sciences as a communication lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How To Invest In A Changing Climate—Literally

AG Chat Interview Series Talks Global Warming Investment Strategy

Climate change has long been a controversial topic, despite consensus among the overwhelming majority of the world’s climatologists that this phenomenon is genuine.

But when investors begin creating strategies around climate change forecasts, you know the verdict is definitely in.

To wit: As part of Deutsche Bank’s Climate Change Advisory service, Director and Senior Investment Analyst Bruce Kahn maintains an investment horizon of one to two decades based on anticipated global warming trends.

Bruce Kahn

In this episode of AG Chat, Kahn discusses the potential impact of climate change on global agriculture markets and what investors need to consider when entering these markets.

We’ll also look at emerging markets, consumption trends and various macroeconomic factors that have conspired to create enormous opportunities in water, food, feed and fuel.

Listen to this episode of AG Chat here.

Download a transcript of our interview here.

And be sure to tune in next week, when AG Chat features Dave Smardon, President and CEO of Bioenterprise Corporation, who takes us on an in-depth tour of the agricultural technology sector—which appears poised to break out in spectacular fashion!

ABOUT AG Chat

AG Chat is an executive interview series featuring the business experts, investors and entrepreneurs at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Each episode explores the trends, technologies and drivers shaping the world of sustainable agriculture today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/INTERVIEWER
Marc Dresner works closely with IBC Life Sciences as a communication lead with a background in trade journalism and marketing. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Prediction: Significant Global Water Shortage by 2030

Access to water is crucial. A constantly increasing global population and economy is increasing demand on a valuable resource that grows more scarce every year.

Last week's "declaration of famine confirms that the Horn of Africa emergency is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world now," according to C.A.R.E., this comes at the same time when food prices and rising fuel costs have skyrocketed and the global economy is riddled in crisis.

According to a 2010 report from McKinsey Quaterly, there will be a significant shortage of water by 2030, given the current rates of usage by agriculture.


You can click here to read the full report: The Water Imperative - McKinsey Quarterly

How will the water scarcity challenge be addressed? 
How will it affect the market? 
What new agricultural processes and technologies are available to remedy and decrease water usage?

Valerie M. Russo is a Senior Social Media Strategist on the AgReturn team, with a technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing business acumen. She is a published poet and also maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at vrusso@iirusa.com. Follow her @Literanista.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We're launching a new podcast interview series here at AgReturn called Ag Chat!

We invite you to join us on Wednesdays throughout every month for podcasts featuring in-depth interviews with agribusiness experts, investors and entrepreneurs at the forefront of sustainable agriculture and the water sector.

Back in March, we interviewed Ejnar Knudsen, co-portfolio manager of the Agriculture Fund at Passport Capital – one of the top hedge funds in the world.

Based on the success of that podcast, we've decided to launch a whole series dedicated to hearing what the experts have to say -- so stay tuned for more great interviews to take the conversation to new heights!

Since our blog is fairly new, we'd like to to kick off Ag Chat today with our first-ever podcast:

Ejnar Knudsen Talks Shop: An Ag Chat Podcast - Knudsen explains why we’re at the early stages of a massive agriculture market reset – in step with an iterative, 38-year cycle – and the impact of quantitative easing in the ag sector, as well as how a “silent tsunami” of global proportions poses new challenges and fresh opportunities to agriculture investors.

Click here to listen to the interview or download the transcript.

Valerie M. Russo is a Senior Social Media Strategist on the AgReturn team, with a technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing business acumen. She is a published poet and also maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at vrusso@iirusa.com. Follow her @Literanista.

Monday, June 13, 2011

AG Economics 101: Tom Eisenhauer of Bonnefield Financial

Tom Eisenhauer of Bonnefield Financial provides an overview on how agricultural economics is different than other industries and the implications for investors.





Valerie M. Russo is a Senior Social Media Strategist on the AgReturn team, with a technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing business acumen. She is a published poet and also maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at vrusso@iirusa.com. Follow her @Literanista.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Welcome to AgReturn!

Hello, and welcome to the new AgReturn blog! I am thrilled to have a place where people can come year-round to talk about the issues and stories that are important to all of us. I hope that this will evolve into a platform and sounding board for innovative ideas, strategies, success stories, connections, and as a call to action for the ag investment sector.

We will be sharing our own thoughts, and as we move forward each of the dedicated AgReturn team members will be introducing themselves. We will also be producing podcasts and written interviews with some of our expert conference contributors as well as publishing original content from guest bloggers on the topics of climate change, farmland strategy, commodities analysis, new technologies and much more. If you are interested in contributing, feel free to give us a shout!

I want this to be a fun and informative space to talk about anything and everything that has an impact on the sustainable natural resources portfolio—from the riverbank to The World Bank. Let’s get started!




Kate Westfall is the director of the AgReturn conference series, AgReturn Latin America and the InfraReturn Investment Forum. Kate holds a Master’s Degree in Food Culture and Communications from La Universit√† degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region and currently resides in New York City. Follow her @agrikate