Harvesting Alpha in Canada’s Agricultural Heartland

Investing in Canadian Farmland

For investors seeking to diversify away from the public markets, the case for investing in Canadian farmland is all too clear. And with our sights set on Canada’s breadbasket, it’s an opportunity that’s been growing for over half a decade. 

“We launched the Avenue Living Agricultural Land Trust in December 2016,” says Gabriel Millard, SVP, Capital Markets – Equity & Research at Avenue Living Asset Management. “From its inception up to now, it has performed well for our investors, and we’ve seen a significant and increasing demand for the strategy.” 

Harvesting returns 

Since 2016, the fund’s portfolio has grown to 83,000 acres of farmland across Saskatchewan, with historical annual returns consistently above 10%.  

“Within the farming community, a lot of operators look for opportunities to expand. They often don’t have access to the capital required to acquire neighbouring parcels when they come up for sale. Others are looking to exit, and don’t have heirs or successors to buy them out of the business,” Millard explains. “We leverage our considerable capital resources to acquire productive, arable farmland in Saskatchewan, which we rent to farmland operators and help them to expand their businesses.” 

The Avenue Living Agricultural Land Trust has a fixed sunset date within the next two years and we’re looking to replicate its success with our new fund, Tract Farmland Partners LP.  

“We wanted to give investors a way to keep benefitting from our experience with Saskatchewan farmland, as well as our active management capabilities in the agricultural space,” Millard says.  

Our approach to farmland is led by Leif Snethun, the CEO of the Avenue Living Agricultural Land Trust, and Tract Farmland Partners LP. Snethun comes from a proud tradition of Canadian farming. His father was the youngest of five boys raised on a farm in east-central Alberta. That farm was homesteaded by Snethun’s grandparents, who immigrated from Norway. With help from his wife, Snethun owns a cow-calf operation west of Stavely, Alberta and helps his younger brother operate the near-by family farm. 

Sowing seeds for future alpha 

“The average urban person can’t imagine the size of the farmland parcels we deal with in the portfolio. 83,000 acres equates to almost 130 square miles,” he says. “With that said, it’s easy to understand why our farmland managers can’t possibly know the specific nuances of the portfolio of land the way our tenant-operators do.” 

To maximize alpha, Snethun and his team actively encourage tenants to come forward with land improvement ideas. Through investments in land reclamation and remediation, and the construction of strategic grain storage facilities, we add direct value to our portfolio and improve tenant farming efficiencies. These improvements mean the tenant is able and willing to pay increased rents. 

“We’ve earned a great reputation in the community,” Snethun says. “I believe that there’s no other form of real estate where the tenant and the landlord are so aligned. Our tenants are financially motivated to look after the land like it was their own as that is how they maximize crop yields.” 

According to Millard, the new strategy leverages the same economics that makes farmland appealing, along with our proven management capabilities and reputation in the agricultural space. 

“Over the six years we’ve spent running our Agricultural Land Trust, we’ve developed a track record of being able to close land acquisition deals on time with farmers, which provides important liquidity for them,” he says.  

Returns generated through our farmland model have the potential to be boosted through a judicious use of leverage. Despite having similar soil characteristics as farmland in neighbouring provinces such as Alberta and Manitoba, Saskatchewan farmland trades at over a 30% discount. 

“With the Federal government’s interest in food supply and security, farmers in Canada benefit from added stability through crop insurance,” Millard adds. “This creates a layer of protection for our tenant-operators in case they suffer adverse weather conditions or other occurrences that negatively impact their crop yields.” 

Favourable tailwinds 

Globally, the case for investing in farmland is gathering strength from several macroeconomic tailwinds. Urbanization is playing a part in the depletion of farmland acres. Over the decades, arable farmland area has shrunk from 5.6 acres per capita in 1961 to 1.2 acres per capita as recently as 2016 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAOSTAT), 2021). 

There’s also pressure from the growing global population, which officially topped eight billion last year.  As more countries enter a period of economic prosperity in the coming decades, the World Bank forecasts an increase in the average daily caloric intake among developing nations, with citizens’ dietary preferences shifting toward higher-value, more calorie-dense foods such as meat.  

Because of limited supply and the prohibitive cost of meat products, import-dependent markets may turn to pulse crops – including legumes such as lentils, peas, and beans – as nutritionally equivalent alternatives. The Canadian Prairies stand as the largest exporter of lentils, peas, and chickpeas in the world today. Within Canada, around 90% of lentils and 50% of pea production originates from Saskatchewan (Government of Saskatchewan, 2021). 

“According to the Government of Saskatchewan, the province accounts for more than 40% of the cultivated farmland in Canada,” Millard says. “It’s a critical piece of Canada’s food production capacity, and critical to helping fill the growing global food supply gap.” 

Historically, farmland has proven to be a strong inflation hedge, with annual returns outpacing gains in the CPI over the past 30 years. That trend is set to continue as demand grows and a breakdown in supply chains throws the world into a new commodities supercycle. 

“Increases in commodity prices tend to correlate with revenue increases for farming operators as well as generating more investor demand for farmland. As the price of each acre of farmland increases, so does the value of the asset,” Millard says. “Even in years where CPI is negative, we’ve historically seen positive farmland returns.” 

Investing in farmland also provides diversification, as its return performance is generally uncorrelated to other asset classes. Saskatchewan’s expansive terrain encompasses a variety of weather patterns, allowing Avenue Living to capture a wide continuum of crops and crop yields. 

“Right now, our farmland ownership is scattered throughout the arable portion of Saskatchewan,” Snethun says. “We’ve witnessed a massive change in people’s awareness and interest in the agricultural space over the past three years, and we’re very excited to be part of that wave.” 


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAOSTAT). (2021). FAOSTAT. Retrieved from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States: https://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#home  

Government of Saskatchewan. (2021). Saskatchewan Agriculture Exports 2021. Retrieved from Government of Saskatchewan: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/agriculture-natural-resources-and-industry/agribusiness-farmers-and-ranchers/saskatchewan-import-and-export-information/resources-for-importers/trade-statistics 

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://www.avenuelivingam.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

Mini Mall Storage Welcomes Two Leadership Team Members

Dallas, TX and Calgary, AB, February 2, 2023 

In the midst of significant and strategic growth across North America, Mini Mall Storage Properties (MMSP) is focused on delivering operational efficiency and superior customer experience at every location. With that in mind, the company is announcing the addition of two new members this week: Joe Colavecchia is joining as SVP, Operations, and Lee-Ann Emment as SVP, Business Operations. Both leaders bring a wealth of experience working for major brands in their respective functions, and their contributions will help guide the strategic growth as MMSP embarks on a promising 2023.  

Joe Colavecchia has decades of experience in operations and leadership, having built roadmaps to drive efficiency for major automotive rental and mattress companies. He actively invests in people through training and mentorship to deliver superior customer service — which is already a tenet within the Mini Mall strategy. Colavecchia is looking forward to helping MMSP develop operational plans, training, and procedures to support field teams and create a consistent customer experience. “Mini Mall’s solid foundation and aggressive expansion excites me,” says Colavecchia. “The hub-and-spoke model and state-of-the-art technology set Mini Mall apart, and I’m looking forward to being part of building the company’s future growth.” 

Lee-Ann Emment brings 30 years of experience in business operations and has held various leadership roles for major companies in retail and financial services. Emment’s background in project management, operations, and corporate strategy will be instrumental in helping Mini Mall improve its in-house processes and ensure smooth operation across different business functions. “The consumer goods and services industry is constantly evolving and businesses are affected by different economic situations and external drivers,” says Emment. “As a company, you need to adapt to meet customer needs and I’m eager to enhance the tools and insights at Mini Mall.”  

“We continue to refine our operations and focus on our customers as we gear up for another exciting year,” says Adam Villard, Chief Executive Officer of Mini Mall Storage Properties. “We’re fortunate to have Joe and Lee-Ann join us to evolve our teams and advance our business practices. I’m confident their leadership skills and multifaceted experience will add tremendous value as we work to deliver industry-leading self-storage to secondary and tertiary markets across North America.” 

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://www.avenuelivingam.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

Continuous Improvement: How Focusing on Customer Satisfaction Also Boosts Employee Morale

“In everything we do, we focus on our residents and customers first.” This is a common phrase used by Avenue Living’s Chief Investment Officer, Jason Jogia, and a sentiment that reverberates throughout the organization. This laser focus on the customer drives our investment strategy, our approach to service, and our operations as a whole. 

Since 2006, we’ve learned that superior customer service requires ongoing adaptation from our team. Employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction are uniquely linked; when a process is smooth and easy for our leasing specialists, maintenance associates, or regional portfolio managers, it usually means it’s convenient for our customers.  

“We centre our operations around the customer and employee experience. We want to make tasks easier for everyone,” says Winford Rader, Vice President of Continuous Improvement. “Creating efficiencies means doing our research, evaluating the tools we’re using, and aligning our teams to best serve our customers.” 

Avenue Living’s Continuous Improvement department develops better processes for our team and customers. Officially formed in 2019, the group of almost 20 includes business analysts, data analysts, and operational efficiency experts. They break procedures down and examine how each component can be streamlined. And sometimes, they uncover simple, time-saving solutions to a host of challenges. 

The property management industry is in the middle of significant change, as new technology and changing customer needs push managers to consider how to attract and retain residents. The Entrata 2022 Renter’s Report notes that 62 per cent of renters surveyed prefer interaction with a real person — and it builds greater trust. Renters listed responsiveness, ability to give feedback (renter input), and face-to-face interaction as the top items they wanted their property manager to improve. 

For Avenue Living, delivering industry-leading customer service has been a key differentiator from the very beginning. Providing a positive experience means re-examining our processes and adapting, whether it’s improving our response time to maintenance calls (99 per cent of which are fully resolved within 1.85 days) or making showings, rental applications, or the leasing process easier. 

Sometimes the solutions to our biggest challenges lie in the smallest details.  

Using data to drive improvement 

The Continuous Improvement department looks at data from numerous sources, such as Google My Business, and Yardi Voyager to consolidate one “curated, validated, and trusted source of data.” With this one source of truth in hand, teams across the Avenue Living platform can begin to see where processes are performing well and where improvements can be made. 

“It’s easy to get hung up on how we’ve historically done things,” says Winford Rader. “But sometimes asking the right questions and understanding the end result can help us arrive at an improved destination sooner.” 

Humanity + Technology 

The insight we get from front-line interactions between our residents and our Regional Portfolio Managers (RPMs), leasing specialists, and maintenance associates has led to simple solutions that can have a big impact. For example, improving the outcome of the leasing process by tailoring appointments to times when potential residents are most available, or creating tools that allow a smoother application and signing process. 

The Continuous Improvement team works in tandem with business units across the organization to arrive at solutions, rather than prescribing them. The team gathers data and provides analysis that allows each group to determine a feasible endpoint. This collaborative effort creates greater buy-in and personal investment in the results. 

Smoothing out these processes often has reduced costs by eliminating redundant efforts. Innovation that allows our team to save even minutes a day has a significant impact throughout the calendar year. Coupled with responsive customer service and a focus on retention, it has helped us create value for our investors, today and in the future.  

The Continuous Improvement team allows us to think strategically and see how our end-to-end customer service processes work together. As the market evolves and resident demands change, we’re able to respond more effectively and work toward a shared vision that serves our customers, employees, and investors.  

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://www.avenuelivingam.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.