A Madera County business specializing in state-of-the-art food safety technology has launched the region’s first qualified Opportunity Zone business and on June 19, 2019, The Berenda Opportunity Fund, LLC was formed.
Also organized at that time, a second new entity named H-ATS to acquire certain assets of Benton Enterprises, LLC including, intellectual property under the name Adaptable Technology Systems (ATS), Heart Ridge Farms (HRF) and Elk Ridge Almonds (ERA).
ATS developed a proprietary process to reduce pathogens through a science and energy based technology to maximize food safety, preserve the integrity and taste of the food products. These techniques will significantly improve safe food handling for a wide variety of foods. Both Heart Ridge Farms and Elk Ridge Almonds currently utilize this technology for the retail brand (HRF) and bulk processing of almonds and pistachios (ERA).
Opportunity Zones are census tracts that were nominated by governors of each state and certified by the United States Treasury into which investors can invest in new projects to spur economic development in exchange for certain federal capital gains tax advantages. The opportunity zone tax incentive was adopted on December 22, 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that provides tax incentives for investments in underserved communities.
Opportunity Zone Funds are investment vehicles that require at least 90% of their capital in “Qualified Property,” which includes stock, partnerships, interests and business property. The fund model enables a broad array of investors to pool their resources in Qualified Zone Property, increasing the scale of capital going to investments in which the Opportunity Zone Fund will invest. An Opportunity Zone Fund provides material tax benefits for investors with capital gains from other investments.
William B. Pitman, with over 40 years of farming and food processing experience, founded Benton Enterprises in 2013. Recognizing the need for improved food safety while preserving and enhancing its product integrity, led to the development of a low temperature process for several types of locally grown nuts marketed for retail sales under brands Heart Ridge Farms (retail) and under Elk Ridge Almonds (bulk). “The H-ATS combination of the Benton businesses and the ATS technologies creates a food safety solution worldwide” said Pitman. “The need for better food safety while preserving the quality is critical and we feel we can help meet those needs with our proprietary technologies,” he added.
Pitman met with the Madera County Economic Development Commission to obtain information about Opportunity Zones and had this to say, “Bobby Kahn was very helpful in getting me started in the right direction”. “Bobby explained the basics of how an Opportunity Zone Fund works and provided me with names of people that could provide the expertise in the formation of an Opportunity Zone Fund” Pitman added. It is interesting to note that Pitman represents a 7th generation Madera county family that has deep roots in agriculture. The project consultants are the accounting firm of Moss Adams LLP (Fresno) and the legal firm, Cutting Edge Counsel (Oakland).
*Pictured-Bill Pitman, CEO/Managing Memeber- Benton Enterprises