Investors establish agricultural development fund

Most businesses could use more capital.

More cash for marketing, new equipment, new employees and new processes, is normally useful.

But to take their company to the next level, business owners also need experts; people with specialized knowledge, who can push the company in the right direction.

“Giving somebody money is one thing. Actually doing something with that money and actually making it work, that’s something completely different,” said John Lansink, general partner of Ag Capital Canada, a private equity fund focused on investment in Canadian agricultural innovation.

“What they really need is the connections and the expertise that a fund like ours can help (provide).”

Ag Capital Canada launched its business March 12. The $23.5-million fund is designed to discover, develop and nurture agricultural businesses across the country.

It’s managed by five general partners, including Jay Bradshaw, former president of Syngenta Canada.

“Ag Capital Canada looks forward to making a lasting contribution to the growth of Canadian agricultural entrepreneurship,” Bradshaw said in a news release. “We will provide the partnership, mentorship and true expertise to help owner-operators take their business to a higher level.”

Ag Capital Canada is based is Tilsonburg, Ont., 60 kilometres east of London.

Four of the five general partners are from Ontario, except Greg Andrukow, who lives in Camrose, Alta.

Andrukow is the president and chief executive officer of Point Forward Solutions Inc., a precision agriculture firm. He was also the CEO and major shareholder of Andrukow Group Solutions Inc. — an independent ag retailer.

Lansink, who grew up on a hog farm near London and owned a company called BlueStar Distribution, spoke with leaders of private equity firms before the formation of Ag Capital Canada.

They told him that “raising money is easy; it’s finding the companies that’s hard.”

“I can tell you it’s the exact opposite for us. Maybe it’s a matter of our ag industry being a little conservative, in trying to raise the funds. But when it comes to the businesses out there, we seem to be having a lot of great businesses coming forward to us,” he said.

“Canada has a lot of great, innovative companies, especially in Western Canada.”

Ag Capital Canada plans to invest in established ag business, not startups.

“We’re not focusing on early stage opportunities, (with) people who simply have ideas or just plans,” said John DePutter, one of the five general partners. “We’re looking for existing companies and managers with a track record.”

As well, they don’t plan to invest in farmland.

“It’s mostly agri-business, agri-food, agri-tech, is where we’d like to really focus on,” Lansink explained.

The five general partners have put their own money into Ag Capital Canada and they convinced a number of investors to become limited partners. The list includes farmers, entrepreneurs and Farm Credit Canada.

“We are proud to contribute to a fund that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit that drives this industry,” said Rebbecca Clarke, FCC vice-president and treasurer. “ACC is an exciting new venture fund supporting this important industry in Canada.”

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