Water, land regenerator Alterra piques the interest of potential partners
Food & Agriculture
Food & Agriculture
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Special Report: Alterra is quickly moving ahead with its first avocado agricultural regeneration project, and prospective future partners are taking note.
Agricultural property developer Alterra’s (ASX:1AG) first project is rapidly taking shape and landowners and investors are taking note: they want in on the next development.
That interest means they’re achieving the company’s goal of being a bridge between capital and the farm gate by bringing development financing into key horticultural regions in Australia.
“We are fielding interest from both sides: from landowners looking for an investment partner to develop their acreage and from investors who want a good, long-term ethical place for their capital that captures the rising value of land and water,” managing director Oliver Barnes told Stockhead.
“It’s a perfect marriage. The 300-hectare (ha) Carpenters Project in Pemberton, Western Australia, has enabled us to demonstrate the model to both sides and now we’re looking to grow the business.
“We have an increasing pool of landowners who are in a similar situation to Carpenters, where they’re looking for development capital and an experienced partner to reposition and create more value from their land and water assets.”
Alterra’s approach is to find underutilised land assets with water that are ready to be regenerated and lead the development process by repositioning land activity and investing in water infrastructure.
It applies its know-how to develop these holdings into investment-grade productive horticultural assets, riding the uplift in land and water values that the process creates.
The company will begin planting an initial 5ha area this September on the 300ha of plantable land on the Carpenters site. Land preparation has begun for the next 100ha.
Global irrigation leader Netafim has finished the on-site trial of the irrigation system, with the potential for water and energy use reductions in line with the irrigation giant’s previous results, and Galt Engineering has been hired for dam geotechnical studies and design optimisation.
Optimising the capture, storage and use of water is a key focus and the ethical development and use of water is one of Alterra’s key draw cards for investors.
Alterra has also secured southwestern avocado nursery Wildwood as its tree production partner.
Barnes says the nursery, which grafted the Alterra budwood genetics onto its rootstock, can produce 30,000 avocado trees a year, or about 100ha of plantings.
“We look to work with local service providers and support local companies, a move which mitigates their risk as much as ours during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Wildwood has worked very well for us, having a nursery in the southwest. It’s given us physical oversight of the trees during the COVID-19 lockdown, which we’d not have had if we’d sourced stock from the East Coast.”
Other partnerships include long-time Pemberton avocado grower French’s Group, from which Alterra secured the genetics for its Hass trees, southwest producer Richard Eckersley, and Carpenters landowner Red Moon, an entity related to the Casotti Group, WA’s largest privately-owned fruit grower, packer and wholesaler.
Barnes says the origination team is now looking for the next project and they will be drawing down on the experiences gained from the Carpenters development.
Alterra is focused on the southwest region of Australia, thanks to the higher than average yields delivered compared to other key growing regions in Australia and premium marketing window.