Planting, Cultivating, Reaping: Farm Investment Startup Experiencing Record Growth

Just three months into 2022, AcreTrader is experiencing a record year for growth. The Fayetteville-based farmland investment company just received a $20 million investment from Drive Capital, the Ohio venture capital firm that has invested in more than 50 companies outside of Silicon Valley, including major players like Duolingo, Greenlight and Olive.

And that’s in addition to the $40 million Series B funding, announced earlier this year, to fund the company’s continued growth, which will be used to finalize a land mapping and analytics platform that provides farmers, landowners and investors with unparalleled insights and information on the value of land.

Launched in 2018, AcreTrader utilizes proprietary technology to facilitate the buying and selling of land nationwide through a streamlined customer experience. Farmland is one of the largest U.S. real estate sectors, exceeding $3 trillion in value, but historically has been very difficult to access for investors.

Over the past year, the company’s revenues have grown five times over, its customer base has tripled, and the amount of land going live on its platform has more than doubled. AcreTrader also announced the launch of its land brokerage platform, AcrePro, which makes it easier for agents, buyers and sellers to assess, sell and purchase land. Plus, the company soon will launch a first-of-its-kind geospatial analytics platform.

AcreTrader CEO Carter Malloy

AcreTrader continues to plant seeds of innovation, and company founder and CEO Carter Malloy has been there from the very beginning, cultivating it for success.

Malloy grew up in an Arkansas farming family and has had a lifelong passion for investing, agriculture and conservation. Prior to founding AcreTrader, he was part of an equity investment firm and a managing director with Stephens Inc.

He recently visited with Arkansas Money & Politics to discuss what led him to the world of farmland investing and what’s in store for the future.

Q: Tell us about AcreTrader. Additionally, what is AcrePro and AcreMaps, and how do these tools all work together?

A: Our vision is to make buying and selling land common, transparent and easy. Each of these tools helps empower our customers to buy and sell land in a different way — through advanced data, technology and expertise.

AcreTrader is a farmland investing platform that enables individual investors to purchase fractional shares in thoroughly vetted farmland. On the other side of the equation, we work with farmers to help them find and lease land to expand their operations.

AcrePro is the brokerage arm of our business. It facilitates land transactions, using advanced technologies and a team of agents with in-depth local expertise. AcreMaps is the data arm of our company. This advanced mapping tool combines deep data layers and cutting-edge analytics, allowing users to examine land like never before by providing information from historical crop yields and flood maps to tax data and comparable sales.

Q: What led you to start AcreTrader? What was your mission, and what “hole” did you believe AcreTrader could fill?

A: The land industry has fascinated me since I was a kid. My family owned a farm in eastern Arkansas; that always gave me a sense of place because I was able to be outside with my family and experience the land itself.

Most of us have some kind of emotional connection with land, yet land markets themselves can be incredibly opaque for people who want to own, access or invest in a piece of land –– there’s no clear starting point or process. I heard people around me asking, “How do I participate? What’s an appropriate price to pay or ask? Where can I find information and experts to help me in the process?”

I knew how to participate in farmland investment because of my own background, but I realized how difficult it was for other people to access that information. So I started looking for ways to bring those resources together and make them more widely available.

Q: How did you meet COO Garrott McClintock, and what led him to join AcreTrader?

A: I met Garrott through a mutual friend from Stephens. He was co-managing a large farm, and I was impressed with his tech-forward approach. After meeting Garrott, I quickly realized he was one of the most intelligent and intentional people I’d ever met. He had a unique interest in and experience with agriculture, finance and technology that made me really want to work with him. I realized we shared a common goal of creating real value for farmers by providing expansion capital, while at the same time providing the opportunity for folks to invest in rural America alongside those farmers.

Q: What sort of reservations might investors have about fractional farmland investing in the beginning, and how do you ease those?

A: Many investors simply don’t know they can invest in farmland or why they should.

It’s historically been a pretty inaccessible asset class for individuals, so one of our major tasks is to educate people about farmland — both how it works as an investment and how that ties in with agriculture and our food system.

Another part of that equation is trust. We are a younger company doing new things, so we are very involved in communicating with our investors. We do not have salespeople or commissions.Instead, we have a team of people ready to engage with investors and farmers to answer questions and provide clear information, transparency and educational materials.

Q: Do most individuals who invest on the AcreTrader platform come with a set plan on where/how they want to invest, or do you regularly work with investors to figure out the best plan for them?

A: We do not provide investment advice. We provide educational material that investors can study and weigh for themselves how farmland might fit into their broader investment goals. Some of those investors go on to make investments and build portfolios with us.

We have some that invest in a farm or two, and we have many that are invested across 20 to 30-plus farms. Location, crop type, operator and climate are some factors that investors take into account as they build a custom farmland portfolio.

Q: What are the accomplishments you are most proud of, and what are your goals moving forward?

A: Without a doubt, I’m proudest of the people I get to work with every day. We focus on empowering our people to make decisions and enact their vision — that’s how we are able to iterate and grow quickly. I’m incredibly honored by the caliber of people I get to work with. They’re smart, hardworking, humble, curious folks, and most importantly, they’re just awesome humans. We have a lot of fun in the office together.

Q: What does the future look like for farmland investing? What role will AcreTrader play?

A: As farmland becomes a more widely recognized asset class, a broader diversity of investors will participate. We hope that will lead to greater success in rural America and growth in the livelihood of the American farmer. Farmland investing should be a mutually beneficial relationship, and we hope the wider industry shares our goals.

Q: Any upcoming announcements or projects on the horizon?

A: We’re growing like crazy. We currently have over 70 employees and will more than double that by the end of the year. We also have a lot on the technology roadmap, especially with AcreMaps, so expect to see some large new releases from us this year.

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