Technologically driven productivity gains: The per-acre production of U.S. farmland has grown consistently and rapidly for decades, outpacing both the productivity of agricultural sectors in other countries, as well as other industries in the U.S.
In this decade, many high-tech productivity drivers are emerging, ranging from the use of GPS for precision farming to the bioengineering of more efficient grain strains.
The trend hasn't gone unnoticed by the elites of the investment community - Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Associates holds a sizable position in Monsanto (MON) and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) made a long-term bet on Deere & Co. (DE)
So how can a sophisticated investor benefit from this macro trend? Investing in established companies that dominate the industry is one route, the one taken by some high-profile names.A more ambitious investor willing to take on more risk might also do well by picking winners from among smaller more volatile agricultural ventures springing up in the sector. Companies based outside the U.S., like Adecoagro (AGRO) and Cresud (CRESY) are examples, but one should weigh carefully the potential instability and political risks that loom over the agricultural sectors of developing countries. The best way to benefit from rising land prices is the obvious one -- to own a geographically diversified portfolio of land. There are unmatched advantages to directly owning farmland, including high reliable yields and tax advantages that other asset classes lack. Owning land, however, is very involved. It comes with complexity many smaller investors don't think they can navigate on their own -- CSR ratings, proximity to transportation and irrigation, working with land managers, protecting land from erosion, commodity hedging, complying with a multitude of state laws affecting absentee landlords and liquidity issues. But for those motivated to finding opportunities in the Corn Belt, a gold rush for fertile land may be the investment frontier of the decade. At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.