"The agriculture sector is important. With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions," Gates wrote, responding to a question in "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session on social media platform Reddit in March.
The Land Report magazine reported in January that Bill and Melinda Gates have amassed the largest portfolio of private farmland in the U.S.
A $171 million purchase of 14,500 acres of prime eastern Washington farmland in 2018 gave the power couple an estimated 242,000 acres of farmland, which is nearly the size of Hong Kong.
This is part of a broader 269,000-acre land portfolio belonging to the couple and associated entities across 19 states, with the largest holdings in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Arizona (25,750 acres).
The couple's acquired farmland is owned through a private investment company – Cascade Investment. This company also owns shares in plant-based protein companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, as well as agricultural equipment maker John Deere. (Related: Why is Bill Gates buying up farmland across America?)
The investment company's single largest acquisition of farmland came in 2017 when it paid $520 million to purchase 61 properties from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). This parcel apparently makes up the bulk of the billionaire couple's farmland holdings. It was previously owned by Agriculture Company of America, a real estate investment trust acquired by CPPIB in 2013.
In January, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it would create a nonprofit entity called Gates Ag One that will "speed up efforts to provide smallholder farmers in developing countries with access to the affordable tools and innovations they need to sustainably improve crop productivity and adapt to the effects of climate change."
The farmland acquired by Gates appeared to be earmarked for genetically engineered corn and soy crops – the base foods for what will become synthetic ultra-processed products like synthetic meat.
In 2019, it was reported that Impossible Burger was facing a shortage of soy because it relied on farms that didn’t use genetically modified seeds. Impossible Foods had seen a huge surge in demand for its Impossible Burger product that year. It has become a marquee brand in one of the hottest sectors of the food business.
Impossible Foods makes plant-based protein that can be fashioned into burgers. Its goal is to help eliminate the need for animals from the meat supply by 2035, but its products rely on GMOs and heavy use of herbicides and pesticides.
One other use for the farmland Gates has acquired is to grow crops for biofuels.
Gates is not new to the biofuel industry. In 2016, he joined French oil giant Total in investing $14 million in biofuel specialist Renmatix.
Renmatix has developed a process that converts plant waste and biomass into sugars that can be converted into biofuels and bio versions of chemicals. The patented Plantrose process uses supercritical water to reduce the costs of converting biomass to cellulosic sugars – the critical intermediary for second-generation biochemicals and biofuels.
"To effectively address climate change, we need to develop an energy infrastructure that doesn't emit greenhouse gas and is cost competitive. A critical component in this effort must be to decarbonize the industrial sector," Gates said at the time. "Another is the possibility of cost competitive biofuels. Renmatix provides an innovative process that is an exciting pathway to pursue."
He has not elaborated on his plans yet, but Gates will apparently use plant waste and biomass from his farmland to develop biofuels. This means biosludge from human waste will be spread on farms to grow more GMOs... all to "save the planet."
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