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The billionaire – whose fortune, according to Forbes, is worth $121 billion – now owns a huge number of agricultural land in 19 states. The total area he owns is 269,000 hectares (i.e. 1,077,000 acres).
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the third richest man in the world, has arable land in 18 states, either directly or through Cascade Investments agreements with third parties, according to the Land Report.
The portfolio includes estates in Arkansas (approximately 192,000 acres), Arizona (approximately 100,000 acres), California (approximately 20,000 acres) and smaller areas in Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Mississippi, Mississippi, Mississippi, Mississippi Carolina, Ohio, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In addition to Gates, the other big landowners are also Stewart and Linda Resnik (co-owners of the Wonderful Company) who own 760,000 acres and produce products such as mandarins Wonderland Halos.
In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced $306 million in grants to farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Forbes, the Foundation has also invested in the “development and dissemination of climate-resistant” supercultures “for which it has set up an NGO called Gates Ag One.”
Although it is not yet clear how Gates uses his land, Forbes notes that Gates Ag One and Cascade subsidiary Cottonwood Ag Management (which promotes sustainable farming practices to protect soil, water resources and crops) and all this indicates what its purpose will be.
It all started in 1995. Gates wanted to capitalize on the vast wealth he already held as the founder and owner of Microsoft, hired a fund manager named Michael Larson, who founded Cascade Investment, and began buying huge farmland on his behalf.
By 2015, under Larson, Gates had purchased more than 450,000 acres across the United States. Between 2017-2018, he spent more than half a billion dollars and bought another 400,000 acres. And between 2019-2020, he bought another 227,000 acres for almost $170 million.
Gates, in a discussion on Reddit, answering questions from the public on why he buys so much land, he replied: “This is what my investment team chose to do. It is not related to the climate”, implying that its motivation is mainly profit. Gates added that the main driver of the markets was the science of developing new seeds and biofuels: “The agricultural sector is important. With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa tackle the climate difficulties it is already facing. “It is not clear how much biofuels can become cheaper, but if they become cheaper, they can solve the problem of air and truck emissions,” he said.