Sundrop sold to trans-Tasman investment firm

FURUTE: Sundrop Farms has been sold to New Zealand-based infrastructure group Morrison & Co. for an undisclosed price.
FURUTE: Sundrop Farms has been sold to New Zealand-based infrastructure group Morrison & Co. for an undisclosed price.

Port Augusta's world renowned tomato farm has a new owner, with Sundrop Farms handing over the reigns to New Zealand-based infrastructure group Morrison & Co.

Speculation over the ongoing viability of the solar-powered tomato grower prompted rumours of a potential sale earlier this year.

Sale negotiations concluded recently, but both companies remain tight-lipped about the final price tag.

Reports suggest the deal was worth between $30 million and $250 million.

"We are not disclosing the financials, however we can advise that it was within expectations of both the outgoing and incoming shareholders," Sundrop CEO Steve Marafiote said.

"This was a standard action of the outgoing shareholders general hold period which is dictated by the fund cycles that they originate from. However the hold period was well over five years."

The facility opened in 2016 and cost about $200 million to build, with half of that coming from private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR).

Inside one of Sundrop's greenhouses.

Inside one of Sundrop's greenhouses.

A state-of-the-art solar tower is used to produce energy to power the plant growing systems, and to heat and cool the greenhouses as required.

More than 23,000 mirror heliostats capture sunlight and direct it to a central receiver at the top of the 127-metre tower.

All water running through the irrigation system comes from the Spencer Gulf and is desalinated using a cutting edge thermal desalination plant.

The facility currently employs upwards of 200 people, with the sale expected to have little impact on day-to-day activity.

"This places the business very well to continue on its positive path, stabilising the current business further, and providing a great base to expand from if the business so chooses," Mr Marafiote said.

"It is extremely positive for the Sundrop team and business in Port Augusta, there are no changes to the presence, rather as mentioned provides the base for future growth."