Centuria spends $70m on another tomato farm

The Port Augusta fruit farm cost $200 million to build in 2016.

Centuria has added a second hydroponic tomato growing facility to its six month old Agriculture Fund (CAG) – this time in South Australia’s Port Augusta.

The 246 hectare Sundrop Farms has set the group back $70 million – well below replacement cost.

Sundrop Farms uses solar energy to power a desalination plant.

The Morrison & Co Growth Infrastructure Fund, managed by New Zealand’s HRL Morrison, offered it with a 20 year leaseback.

That group picked up the asset in 2019 from KKR which built it three years earlier, reportedly tipping in half the c$200m construction cost.

The South Australian property produces 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually.

The Clean Energy Corporation contributed the balance.

The acquisition comes 13 months since Centuria seeded CAG, outlaying $177m for a glasshouse based tomato growing facility at Warragul, 100 kilometres south east of Melbourne.

That seller was Roc Partners which also offered it with a 20 year leaseback, to Flavorite Group.

Colliers’ James BeerDuncan McCulloch and John Marasco were the agents.

Port Augusta is about 300 kms north west of Adelaide.

Sundrop Farms

Sundrop Farms was the first commercial scale property of its type to use solar power and seawater to grow tomatoes (story continues below).

It contains four five hectare glasshouses, producing 17,000 tonnes of the fruit annually – 14 per cent of which is truss-loose, truss pre-pack and baby plum.

The asset also includes a 1.4 megalitre osmosis plant, a 1ML desalination plant, 25ML storage dam, and distribution centre.

It is designed with 12.5ha concentrated solar system too that generates 30,000 megawatts of heating and 45,700 kilowatt hours of electricity – which powers the desal plant.

“We are pleased to partner with Sundrop which has developed world first, integrated sustainable farming technology resulting in more predictable volumes of produce in a protected farming environment,” Centuria joint chief executive officer, Jason Huljich, said.

The manager is expected to shortly add a c$170m asset to CAG.

“This [Port Augusta] acquisition is another example of Centuria executing on its strategy of providing our unlisted investors with access to high quality investment opportunities in the fragmented, agriculture sector and provides a new highly sought-after funds management vertical for the Centuria platform,” he added.

Centuria inherited a swag of farms with its September, 2021 takeover over Primewest, which managed several agricultural funds.

In South Australia the portfolio included four vineyards, all up covering 107ha, formerly owned by the Accolades Wines/Rolf Binder business.

Outside the state, Primewest held a Lamattina celery producer at Boneo, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, and an almond orchard in New South Wales’ Riverina region which cost $53.9m from Harvard University last July.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of realestatesource.com.au.