Canada-based investment fund Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Ontario Teachers’) and its Australian agri-food subsidiary AustOn Corporation (AustOn) have announced a new strategic partnership with Australian fruit producer Montague.

As part of the partnership, Pomona Valley, an Australian apple and stone fruit producer owned by AustOn, will acquire a majority equity interest in Montague.

Current managing director, Scott Montague will retain an ownership stake in the business of the same naame.

Pomona Valley and Montague will merge to form one business and Scott Montague will take on the role of general manager of the merged operations.

Completion of the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval is expected to happen in the first half of 2024.

“The partnership with AustOn and the merger with Pomona Valley signals the next exciting stage in the growth of Montague,” said Scott Montague. “The financial backing of a global investor in agriculture opens a range of possibilities that both businesses have been keen to explore.”

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“The merger of the two businesses will cement the combined operation as a preferred supplier to domestic and international customers well into the future,” he said.

According to Ontario Teachers’ statement, the investor is “committed to the long-term sustainable growth of Pomona Valley and Montague as they embark on the next phase as a merged business.”

Christopher Metrakos, senior managing director of natural resources at Ontario Teachers’ said Montague is “at the forefront of the fresh produce industry in Australia”.

“Ontario Teachers’ and AustOn have a proven track record in investing in the farming sector both in Australia and worldwide, and we are focused on using this experience to deliver long-term, sustainable growth of Pomona Valley and Montague as a merged business,” he said.

Montague is a “vertically integrated grower, packer and marketer of fruit in Australia”. According to Ontario Teacher’s press release, the Australian fruit company is the “category leader across apples, supplying high-quality fresh produce to major supermarkets and wholesalers nationally; and into the export market”.

Montague owns brands such as Jazz Apple, Eve and Ambrosia.

Pomona Valley grows and packs pome and stone fruits in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley.

AustOn is the Australian agriculture arm of Ontario Teachers’ and has operated in Australia since 2018. It manages farms in the country, namely the almond producer Aroona Farms in South Australia and Victoria, Jasper Farms, which produces avocados in Western Australia, and Pomona Valley, which grows apples and stone fruit in Victoria.

Earlier this year, Ontario Teachers acquired a majority stake in Mitolo Family Farms, which supplies potatoes and onions in Australia.

The Canada-based global investor is headquartered in Toronto and has offices in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai and San Francisco. It has net assets of C$249.8bn ($183.8bn) as of June 30 2023.