Miami Property King
Billionaire Moishe Mana has spent eight years amassing buildings. Is it self-indulgence or the start of a downtown revival?
Moishe Mana wants to get on everyone’s plate. The entrepreneur and real estate mogul set his sights beyond Wynwood and downtown Miami years ago, planting and nurturing the seeds for an agricultural empire in Colombia.
Now his growing farm holdings are bearing fruit. Though he’s not loudly touted the venture, it’s the newest, unexpected turn for Mana, an Israeli immigrant who parlayed a single van into a moving, storage and warehousing fortune, a money-making arts enterprise and massive land holdings in Miami.
And like his Mana Contemporary arts forays and the sometimes quixotic goals he espouses in Wynwood and downtown’s Flagler Street district, his Colombian farming operation is a mix of heady idealism and hard-nosed business sense from this self-made billionaire. The agrarian side of Mana’s vast multifaceted commercial enterprise flies under the radar and is little known in Miami, where the man has become synonymous with Wynwood and downtown real estate.
Miami’s largest single landowner quietly launched Managro Fresh in 2014, alongside co-founder and partner Chagai Stern in Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellín. The consumer brand is part of Mana Agro, the agricultural division of Mana Common, Mana’s real estate holding company in downtown Miami. It sells a selection of crops and dairy throughout the world, and plans to expand its production this year.
The company owns 2,471 acres of farmland throughout Colombia, mainly in Antioquia province, which sits along the Andes mountains, Stern said. It employs 200 people. In addition to dairy products, farmers cultivate Tahiti limes, mangoes, oranges, pineapples and corn. The products reach 15 countries, including Argentina, Spain, the United States, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
“We believe Colombia could be the garden to feed the world. It has the Pacific and the Atlantic [oceans]. It has plenty of land,” Stern said. “Colombia is a country with many natural resources.”
Managro Fresh is close to starting a new chapter. By late 2022, Stern said, the company anticipates spending $70 million to buy 9,390 acres of land and to start the cultivation of avocados. It also plans to hire 2,000 employees as part of the expansion.
Stern and Mana spent an undisclosed amount in 2014 to launch the company. Last year, it raked in “in the millions” of revenue, said Albert Berdellans III, Mana Common’s vice president of marketing and communications. But, Stern said, Managro Fresh is more than a business.
“Whenever we talk, it’s never about money or profits. It’s about impact,” Stern said, about his multiple phone calls with Mana, who is also a frequent visitor to Colombia, in any given week. “Moishe wants to know how we are talking to the farmers, making better quality [produce] and improving standards. Although it’s not Moishe’s biggest investment, he’s very passionate about it.”
Stern and his team visit 1,500 farmers a year to provide financial and technological advice to farmers.
The agricultural firm is one of numerous businesses Mana owns in addition to Mana Common and Mana Wynwood. In fact, Berdellans said, “Moishe truly has no idea” as far as the number of companies he owns. Mana owns over a thousand various legal entities organized for various purposes under different portfolios, including 70 technology companies.
Mana stepped into farming the same way he stepped into his other businesses, seeing potential and room for long-term growth.
“As I was traveling in Latin America, I started philosophizing. I totally understood that food is going to be the biggest problem in the future,” Mana said.
He said he observed through his travels in Colombia that many young generations of farmers intended to sell their family’s land.
“It was painful,” he said. “They don’t want it, because to be a farmer is to be a slave. They see a kid in Wall Street make a phone call and make five times of what they make in a year.”
Mana said he decided to invest in farming in Colombia to bring in technology that would help streamline the production process, as well as implement a five-day instead of six-day workweek. His goal is to show future generations of farmers how the industry can be sustainable.
It’s not just Colombia. In 2020, Mana acquired the McArthur Dairy in Miami, on the border of the Little River and Little Haiti neighborhoods, for $16.5 million.
Just like Managro Fresh, McArthur Dairy falls under the Mana Agro division of Mana Common. Instead of redeveloping the property, as many expected, he’s kept producing milk, in collaboration with Cream-O-Land, a New Jersey-based company.
“Our business is beyond real estate,” Mana said. “I am not Jorge Pérez [the big Miami condo developer] building every day. I am building for a purpose. It is not my business to [just] build buildings.”