Jim Jackson developed timber and farmland in Eastern Washington, protected from coastal rains by the peaks of the Cascade mountains, building out a clutch of apple farms and other properties on the state’s sunny side for 40 years.
Traditionally, he raised money to expand operations for his farms through his existing network, which meant asking previous investors to pool together and come up with the cash.
But more recently, Jackson turned to a fundraising platform that operates entirely online. Like hundreds of other farmers, he’s using a service called AcreTrader to raise money for agricultural development projects. AcreTrader is one of a growing number of companies revolutionizing the way farm and forestland are acquired, developed and commercialized across the United States.
There’s lots of farmland in the U.S. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and the world’s third-richest man, is the nation’s largest owner of farmland, holding roughly 242,000 acres. That number seems high until you compare it with the 897.4 million acres of land that are currently arable and used for farming in the U.S.
Another 823 million acres of forests dot the United States, the majority of which are privately owned.
Taken together, that’s a massive amount of real estate with economic potential that’s traditionally been accessible only to the ultrawealthy to acquire and finance for development. Now, startups like AcreTrader and others including Tillable, ($8.3 million) FarmTogether ($3.7 million), and Harvest Returns are bringing marketplace models to the farming world — potentially bringing hundreds of thousands of investable acres to financiers looking to diversify.