The Cibus funds, which specialize in sustainable food and agriculture investments, have acquired a majority stake in an Australian vegetable seedlings business, Withcott Seedlings, through their Cibus Fund II LP.
Withcott Seedlings is a producer and supplier of vegetable seedlings to both field and glasshouse growers across Eastern Australia. The company was founded over 40 years ago and is a significant player in the nursery space and a key agent in the Australian vegetable seedling market. Withcott Seedlings has the capacity to grow approximately 350 million seedlings a year across a broad range of vegetable seedling varieties.
Private and venture equity Cibus Fund says to invest in rapidly-growing food chain companies that adopt technologies to enable the profitable and sustainable capture of high-growth markets and produce opportunities.
Cibus Fund II and Withcott Seedlings will partner to enhance the use of automation technology and robotics to improve production efficiency. Significant aspects of a nursery’s activities can be automated through the use of robotics, including automatic seeding, sorting, grafting, monitoring, watering, and feeding.
The company has previously introduced ISO Robotics’ (a Cibus Fund I portfolio company) propagation robots to its operations and has already seen the improvements in product quality and efficiencies that automation can provide.
The new team will also target environmental planting projects to facilitate strong growth opportunities in the carbon offset plantings market as demand for environmental planting in Australia starts to escalate, driven by the underlying demand from upcoming carbon projects.
Rob Appleby, CIO of The Cibus funds, said: “We are excited to announce our first mid-market investment for Cibus Fund II. Withcott Seedlings is an exemplar in the field of vegetable propagation and has experienced positive change by embracing technology. Operational refinements and improved sustainability metrics made the company more resilient through the drought conditions of Australia and COVID-19. We are looking forward to partnering with the high-quality, experienced management team to take Withcott Seedlings to the next level.”
Mike Hindle, CEO of Withcott Seedlings, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for the Withcott Seedlings business and partnering with Cibus, whose holistic vision for sustainable food production and technology will propel this business to the next level. In addition, the prospects of producing very large-scale numbers of tree seedlings for carbon offset projects and forestry plantings fits perfectly with our business model.”
Rawdon Briggs, Head of Agribusiness Colliers, said: “The Withcott Seedlings founders and shareholders appointed Colliers Agribusiness to complete a majority interest sale in an off-market process. The Colliers Agribusiness global database and staged process engaged 73 qualified groups, 17 of which passed into the early stages and virtual data room to complete initial due diligence. Colliers & Withcott Seedlings teams had over 120 questions asked and answered from the three short-listed bidders.”
“The proprietary process ensured a highly qualified and aligned preferred bidder closed and fulfilled our clients’ original instructions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Colliers Agribusiness wishes to congratulate the Cibus Fund II LP team on this recent close of the Withcott Seedlings deal.”
For more information:
The Cibus Funds