Bill Gates, Sustainable Agriculture Champion, Is America's Biggest Farmland Owner

Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates owns 242,000 acres of farmland, making him America's biggest farmland owner. His investment in farming may be connected to his investments in climate change agricultural developments and Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based substitutes for meat products.

Gates' 242,000 acres of farmland includes at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and 15 other states, according to a 2014 Wall Street Journal profile of Michael Larson. Larson, who manages the Gates' personal portfolio and the holdings of the philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helped coordinate the land purchases as one way to diversify the couple's profitable investments away from technology.

In 2017, Gates purchased $520 million in U.S. farmland owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board through its 2013 acquisition of the Agricultural Company of America, a real estate investment trust launched by Duquesne Capital Management and Goldman Sachs in 2007, according to Land Report.

Bill Gates owns most largest farmland America
Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, participates in a panel discussion during the Financial Inclusion Forum December 1, 2015 at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) held the forum to discuss "ways to foster greater access to safe and affordable financial services for everyone." Alex Wong/Getty

Now Gates owns farmland in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. His top five largest farm holdings are 69,071 acres in Louisiana, 47,927 acres in Arkansas, 25,750 acres in Arizona, 20,588 acres in Nebraska and 14,828 acres in Florida.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's initiatives include Gates Ag One, which focuses on research to help "smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and make food production in low- and middle-income countries more productive, resilient, and sustainable." The initiative would also seek to spread its sustainable farming methods over as much acreage as possible.

Gates has also invested millions in Impossible Foods, a company whose plant-based meat products are made of soy and potato-protein but look and taste like sausage and ground beef. The products also contain iron and protein amounts comparable to their meat equivalents, but have no cholesterol and are gluten-free.

The products are now being sold in Trader Joe's and other grocery stores, in 2,100 Walmarts around the U.S. and in 5,000 locations including dine-in restaurants and fast-food chains like Little Caesar's pizza, White Castle burgers and Burger King.

In 2019, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown said that the company was working on a plant-based steak, telling the food technology website The Spoon, "If we can make an awesomely delicious world-class steak ... that will be very disruptive not just to the beef industry, but to other sectors of the meat industry."

Considering that the industrial beef industry is a $3 trillion business and the impacts that climate change will have on agriculture worldwide, Gates' farm holdings could play vital yet disruptive roles in the global future of both.

Newsweek contacted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for comment.