Merrill Dibble, Sun World CEO ( Courtesy Sun World )

Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, Calif., is selling its leased and owned farms to investors that have contracted with Sun Pacific, marketer of Cuties mandarins, to farm the table grape vineyards.

The new entity is called Famous Vineyards.

Sun World CEO Merrill Dibble, in a question-and-answer format accompanying the news release of the land sale, said there has been a “growing interest” in investing more in the breeding and licensing part of the business, known as Sun World Innovations. This move allows the company to concentrate resources on Innovations’ business.

“I’m not exactly sharing state secrets when I say this is a difficult time for agriculture,” Dibble said in the release. “Issues largely out of the industry’s control — like competing supply regions, fewer people available to harvest our crops, tariffs, regulation — are enormous market stressors. But we continued to farm and plant for the next harvest and it was fully our intent to do so.”

The release does not say how much land the company owns and leases in California, but all Sun World acreage in the San Joaquin and Coachella valleys are included, with the “understanding” it will continue to produce table grapes.

The identity of the investment group that purchased the land has not been identified, or the specifics of the brand and marketing of the grapes grown on the land. 

Dibble said he plans to work with the new owners during the transition, and they have “indicated they will finalize other staffing decisions within the next 10 days,” according to the May 6 release.

Sun World, owned by Renewable Resources Group LLC, a management firm specializing in sustainable investing, will be shifting resources to Sun World Innovations.

“We’re convinced of our team’s limitless potential to break new ground in fruit breeding and genetics,” Sun World executive vice president and head of Sun World Innovations, David Marguleas, said in the release. “By focusing additional investment on this side of the business, we intend to accelerate growth in a meaningful way.”

The Sun World brand, and its intellectual property licensing business, which focuses on table grapes and stone fruit, remains. The company will operate as Sun World Innovations when the transaction closes, and it will be based in Palm Desert, Calif.

Sun World Innovations was established in 2015. It has licensed growers in Australia, Chile, Israel and South Africa to grow its proprietary varieties.

Sun World’s land sale follows a string of other changes at California companies:

  • A Los Angeles private equity firm, Butterfly, is acquiring Bolthouse Farms from Campbell Soup Co. for $510 million.
  • Taylor Farms, Salinas, Calif., purchased Earthbound Farm from France-based Danone SA.
  • Kern County grape and cherry Grower Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc. is restructuring, cutting jobs and selling an undisclosed amount of acreage to Wonderful Co.

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