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Investors claim mismanagement as Thai greenhouse venture goes up in smoke

A group of investors says a huge investment opportunity in Thailand turned into a nightmare, as they claim their greenhouse complex went up in smoke.

It all started somewhere around 2017, when the company Midas Agriculture Ltd in Thailand and its sister company Agriwize (registered in Hong Kong) started selling hundreds of greenhouses and aquaponic units with long-term management contracts in Thailand. Through investment agent Live & Invest Overseas, investors bought greenhouse and aquaponics equipment from Midas along with a 20-year management contract from Agriwize.

According to documents obtained by HortiDaily, a small greenhouse cost around $35,000 investment, while a bigger greenhouse went for $49,500. The crops of choice for this project were tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, leafy greens, and melons. Through a partnership with the neighboring Ankana Farm, the greenhouse complexes at Chiang Mai and Pak Chong were to export their produce thanks to the export license that was expected to come with the packing house that said neighboring farm was about to build.

Many foreign investors, mostly with little to no experience in horticulture, jumped into this Thailand opportunity, with some putting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in light of the 14-19% ROI projected by Midas/ Agriwize. In total, it is estimated that at least $10-12 million went into this project.

Around 2018, the Chang Mai and Pak Chong farms were established, with greenhouses being built and all sorts of equipment installed: nutrient dosing systems, water treatment and irrigation systems, and so on. The Chang Mai site was initially designed to use aquaponics. However, the project eventually dropped the aquaponics part, and moved all of that equipment to Pak Chong, according to sources familiar with this matter.

Around 2018-2019, the greenhouses were up and operational, and started producing and harvesting produce for a few years. The advisory board of investors claimed that the produce grown in those greenhouses was of high quality, but others state cultivation-related challenges piled up to the point that it was difficult to sell such produce.

Investors showed dissatisfaction as they claim to have gotten very small checks in return, in the couple of hundreds of dollars region. To their surprise, on December 29, 2023 investors received a letter from Midas/ Agriwize stating that operations were ceasing, and greenhouses had to be dismantled and removed at investors' costs. As explanations for that, Midas/ Agriwize claimed force majeure reasons such as COVID, Chinese imports, rising fertilizers costs, and so on. Investors however debate this, as they claim there was no financial reporting, transparency or consultation on the decision to close operations.

Investors claimed that according to the contract, they could have another management company step in to replace Midas/ Agriwize. However, as they explored that possibility and considered to also find a way to disassemble and take back what they paid for, the neighboring Ankana farm too was getting dismantled due to a change in leadership caused by the passing away of the former landowner, according to sources familiar with the matter. The only thing left was supposedly the packing house, which, however, allegedly was essentially abandoned. Another source familiar with the matter stated that the packing house, the expensive automated nutrient dosing system and water treatment and storage facilities equipment were paid for with investors' money, even though apparently such a thing wasn't mentioned in the initial pitch by Midas/ Agriwize.

Investors claim that they don't know where that equipment ended up, and the ownership of the packing house and equipment is still up to debate. Other sources HortiDaily spoke with claimed that the packing house and equipment were never paid for with investors' money, and one of the main reasons why everything went to shambles was the passing away of the owner of Ankana Farms. The people who took that over wanted out of the agriculture sector, and agreements made before became no longer valid.

As Midas/ Agriwize and investors argue over who's responsible for the sudden stop of the project, a litigation may loom over yet another instance of a CEA investment gone bad due to a lack of experience in the horti space, skyrocketing costs, and perhaps COVID too.

Horti Daily reached out to Midas/ Agriwize but didn't get any response in time for publication, and we'll update this story when we hear from them. In the meantime, Midas Agriculture and Agriwize websites went down.