A Canadian investment fund manager has struck a deal to buy Macquarie Agriculture’s Lawson Grains portfolio — including farms in WA. New Forests and AIMCo (The Alberta Investment Management Corporation) will become the new owner of the huge package of premium farmland, estimated to be worth about $600m, subject to FIRB approval. Under the terms of the deal, there will be no major changes to the Lawson Grains management team at its Albury headquarters in NSW or to on-farm teams. In WA, the portfolio includes aggregations at Wongan Hills, Dandaragan, Jerramungup, Jacup and west of Esperance. Private farmers had hoped to buy some of the farms. In WA, a syndicate of farmers around Wongan Hills collated bids for the local properties but were knocked out in the first round. Macquarie Agriculture put the 105,000ha portfolio on the market earlier this year through Danny Thomas of LAWD. The properties were sold because the closed-ended portfolio was nearing the end of its 10-year life and was being liquidated to return proceeds to investors. New Forest has more than $5.7 billion in assets under management globally. According to its website, it manages about one million hectares of forests, rural land, and conservation investments and is headquartered in Sydney with offices in San Francisco, Singapore, and New Zealand. Mark Rogers, senior managing director (Australia, New Zealand, US) at New Forests said Lawson Grains was a high-quality and diversified agricultural business with an experienced management team. “We look forward to working with the management team to continue to build the business and add value,” he said. “New Forests will bring its sustainability approach to Lawson Grains, managing for sustainable agricultural production and natural climate solutions including soil carbon and native revegetation and focusing on community engagement. “This investment is a natural extension to New Forests’ landscape management approach, ensuring integrated production across Australia’s varied landscape, and backed by our valued client AIMCo.” Ben Hawkins, senior vice president, head of infrastructure and renewable resources at AIMCo said AIMCo had a long history of making sustainable investments into Australia, on behalf of its clients. “The opportunity to acquire Lawson Grains, a fully integrated grains business built on quality assets, people and systems presents an attractive opportunity for AIMCo’s Renewable Resource portfolio to add a significant core asset,” he said. “We look forward to continuing the growth of the business through our longstanding partnership with New Forests, as good stewards of these high-quality agricultural assets." In 2011, AIMCo paid $415m for Great Southern Plantations, comprising more than 2500sqkm of prime forestry across six States, which were in receivership at the time. In 2020, AIMCo bought assets from Bunbury Fibre Plantations. AIMCo is one of Canada’s largest and most diversified institutional investment managers, responsible for the investments of pension, endowment and government funds in Alberta. The sale comes as rural land values are rocketing, with record prices achieved across many WA regions.