North Carolina-based ag investment firm International Farming Corporation (IFC) has acquired three Washington State tree fruit companies: Legacy Fruit Packers, Valley Fruit, and Larson Fruit. The three companies that were owned by the Larson and Verbrugge families will be combined to create a single new company, Columbia River Orchards.
Included in the acquisition are 4,000 acres of orchards, two packing facilities with the capacity for four million boxes of fruit per year, and interests in the Sage Fruit marketing company located in Yakima, Washington, and Pacific Coast Cherry Packers in Wapato, Washington reported www.globalaginvesting.com
Backed by Billions
Rooted in North Carolina agribusiness dating back to 1827, IFC is an agricultural manager with a team experienced in agricultural production in the America, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Through leveraging deep ag production knowledge, multi-generational industry relationships, thorough understanding of vertical integration within the farm value chain, and an innovative in-house agtech solutions platform, IFC’s team of PhD’s in Agricultural Sciences, certified professional agricultural engineers, certified crop advisors, and licensed crop consultants is able to often source off-market deals, and successfully manage institutional farmland operations and their ancillary assets for its investors.
In September 2018, IFC announced it was planning to raise $1.5 billion for its IFC Core Farmland Fund – an open-ended vehicle focused on investing in U.S. farming operations.
Over the long term, through the Core Farmland Fund, IFC is aiming to realize both income and capital growth through investment in a range of row, permanent, and speciality crop farms that offer diversity by geography, management, and associated factors such as storage capabilities or irrigation.
A long-range view is being taken with Columbia River Orchards as well, with the company planning on making “substantial investments in orchard and packing technology to produce the highest quality fruit for our customers…” These investments also will cover expanding and developing further acreage in the coming years, and will be used to support the company’s current 3,000 seasonal and full-time employees, as well as for team expansion in the future.
Ripe For Consolidation
As far back as the end of December 2017, industry watchers were noting that the Washington State tree fruit sector was set for a shift toward consolidation. With an oversupply of both cherries and apples, and crowded with too many packing houses, Michael Butler, CEO of Cascadia Capital in Seattle, said that the tree fruit industry was bound to see a higher level of consolidation over the coming 24 months, as packing houses were running below capacity.
Butler went on to note that mid-sized fruit companies with orchards smaller than 1,500 acres that are not vertically integrated, and are running at or below 30 percent capacity, are at the highest risk of being swept up through consolidation, reported Capital Press.
“They all have potential but there’s not room for all of them,” he said.