Ag investment the focus of Rural Symposium

Ways to buy, invest, grow and sell agricultural enterprises is at the heart of this year’s Rural Focus Symposium hosted by Robb College at the University of New England (UNE), Australia. Among the speakers, Hamish Webb, TerraProtein’s Australia-based Partner, will present on equity funding models applicable to ag-tech and ag-production enterprises.

The Rural Focus Symposium is an annual event, part of UNE 'Ag-Week', held in the first week of August. Known for its agricultural expertise and world-leading research, UNE’s campus will play host to some of Australia’s top agricultural investment minds who will address the challenges and opportunities around farm ownership in Australia, considering various ways to ‘get in and get out’. 

The Symposium will cover topics and discussions including; 

·       How people are getting into farming with limited land or capital?

·       What lessons of risk do the large ag-investors have for us?

·       How are they helping family farmers?

·       New ways to fund your farm — for growth and succession.

·       How and why to hand-on the baton — successfully. 

Geoff Perry, Chairman of the Robb College Foundation Association, is behind organising the Symposium and says the topic of investment is front-of-mind for students looking to establish their future on the land. 

“There seems to be concern among our students about the cost to get into farming,” he says. 

“They’re looking to understand other options beyond solely debt funding and learn from lateral thinkers and leaders in the field speaking at our event, who can help reveal alternative pathways to farm ownership.” 

Mr Perry intends the audience to emerge from the Symposium understanding that “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. 

“We will discuss the more creative examples of farm ownership achieved by people who have come from farming backgrounds and who understand the issues, as well as hearing from others [speaking] from a corporate background who are looking at ways to assist the independent farmer to grow,” he says. 

“We also have three of the leading succession advisors in Australia attending who have some strong messages on how to start planning and when to start.” 

Speakers include a wide range of industry representatives (some of whom are Robb College and UNE alumni) in leadership positions with leading investment companies, such as AAM Investment Group, ASX-listed Rural Funds Management Ltd, and legal experts Roberts & Morrow. 

Hamish Webb, Partner

Australian-based Partner from TerraProtein Equity Partners, Hamish Webb, a Robb College alum, will be among the Symposium’s keynote speakers. Hailing from a sheep and cattle station in Western Queensland, Mr Webb established his corporate finance career with ABN-AMRO Morgans in 2006, raising in excess of AUD $800m for listed agribusinesses before joining TerraProtein Equity Partners in Edinburgh in 2015. 

“Historically there have really only been two ways to become a farmer – one, inherit the family farm, or two, borrow a large amount of debt to purchase the land or agribusiness from scratch,” he says. 

“That is starting to change thanks largely to financial investors seeking to engage and retain farm management and also the traditional family farmer’s openness to joint ownership and investment.” 

Mr Webb says finding the right partner is critical to the process. 

“They must understand the risks and be willing to work collaboratively to resolve the issues that inevitably arise in animal protein production. As a co-investor, we put ourselves at risk if the investment partner does not suit the agribusiness and there is a falling out,” he says. 

Although new to Australia, TerraProtein has several investment projects in Chile, the United Kingdom, Malawi, Tanzania, Poland, Denmark and Romania predominantly within animal proteins and the ag technology/commercialisation sectors.  Click here to view projects.

The Symposium kicks off on August 1 with the black tie Robb Rural Focus Dinner, followed by a series of presentations and Q&A sessions from August 2-3 at the Belshaw Lecture Theatre 1, Economics, Building & Law Building, UNE. For more information regarding the Rural Focus Symposium or to book tickets, visit the following link.


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