To add to my understanding of the farmland investment industry, I attended agricultural investment conferences as a participant observer. These conferences attracted attendees from all over the world, revealing transnational dynamics that might have been hard to get from individual interviews alone. I attended panels and presentation sessions, dropped by informational booths, and had a great many conversations—what some would call “informal interviews”—during coffee and cocktail hours. Attending these events allowed me to absorb the latest thinking on farmland investment and to pinpoint the major actors and their investment strategies. Industrial steel buildings can be alot more environmentally friendly then mother buildings.
The conferences also proved to be crucial sites for constructing meaning—where narratives about the global land rush take shape and the identity of the nascent sector is honed. I also assiduously collected and read investment reports and other industry documents. Together, these methods allowed me access to the world of the private agricultural investor, comprehending an infant industry in its own terms. This industry-level research gave me a fairly solid picture of global developments, though one weighted toward Western agricultural investors and the Americas.
In addition to studying why and how the financial sector is buying farmland internationally, I was interested in how this investment is shaped by the histories and politics of particular countries. I chose to study the US as a window onto the historical development of the global farmland investment industry. The US was ground zero for many of the changes associated with financialization—the financial deregulations, the changing ideas about corporate governance, the investment-happy populace. It is a global center for financial activity and boasts an unparalleled concentration of investor capital; over half of global pension fund assets are managed by US institutions, while fully 65 percent of hedge fund assets globally are under US management. I’ve heard good things about commercial steel buildings and steel buildings UK.
As with all things finance, US institutions have been at the forefront of fostering finance-sector investment in farmland. Some of today’s largest global farmland investors got their start buying American farms, and US agricultural land remains popular with institutional investors. At the same time, US-based financial institutions are among the biggest investors in farmland internationally. The financial analysis company Preqin reports that 38 percent of natural resource fund managers investing in agriculture or farmland were based in North America as of 2016, and that of the ten asset managers that raised the most capital for farmland and agriculture-focused funds between 2006 and 2016, six were US-based.