Since its conception over 50 years ago, The Twynam Group has been actively pushing the boundaries across many industries.
Mr. John Dieter Kahlbetzer was the founder and driving force that contributed to where Twynam is today. Emigrating from Germany in 1954, the forward-thinking and charismatic young man possessed a thirst for knowledge. He learned rapidly that this new thriving Australian economy had much to offer.
Starting with nothing but his passion for succeeding, he began this chapter of his illustrious business career in steel importing and exporting. He also heavily fostered the need for domestic steel sales for what was becoming a rapidly growing country. He fell in love with Australia and all the country had to offer.
Seeking to build an affinity with the land, The Twynam company was created in 1969 when Mr. Kahlbetzer purchased a 100-hectare hobby farm near Picton, New South Wales, called 'Razorback.' This smallholding was the starting point for his interest in rural Australia.
Between 1969 and 1979, Mr. Kahlbetzer purchased more properties, but it was the purchase of 7 significant properties, known as Naroo Pastoral Company in 1979, that the Group's focus shifted predominantly to agriculture. For the next 20 years, Twynam continued to expand, buying and selling agricultural properties to strengthen its portfolio and it was during this growth, in 1991, that Johnny joined the company as COO.
In 1999 Twynam made another significant step, purchasing Colly Cotton. With this addition, Twynam became arguably Australia’s largest agricultural producer.
Twynam became one of the largest agricultural holdings companies in Australia
At its peak, the Twynam group was farming 443,275 hectares on 19 aggregated properties, all within New South Wales.
Twynam was the largest irrigator in Australia, with approximately 260,000 megalitres of river water and 38,000 megalitres of bore water entitlements.
This water meant that a large portion of production came through irrigation, making Twynam Australia’s largest producer of cotton, grain/oilseeds, and rice. Twynam was also ranked 5th in Australian wool production and 15th in Australian cattle production. Twynam ginned up to 380,000 bales of cotton through its three owned and one joint venture gins, and marketed over 1m bales of cotton, which was approximately 25% of the Australian cotton crop.
In May 2009, the family decided to exit a large portion of the agricultural business by selling 240,000 megalitres of river water entitlements to the Australian Federal Government under their “Water Buyback for the Environment” program. Farms that had been irrigation farms were now dryland farms, and the commencement of the sell-down of these farms began. The last of the large-scale farms were sold in 2018.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, several diversified investments were made within the group. Most significant of these was a 42.9% holding in Bridge Oil, which was eventually sold in 1985.
In 1985 we started to accumulate shares in AACo (Australian Agricultural Company), then Australia's largest cattle company. In 1992 we held 30.43% of the company, which was sold in 1995.
Mr. Kahlbetzer created his Argentine agricultural business LIAG in 1982. Over the years, it has grown to produce over 320,000 mt of grains and fibre and operates a 30,000-hectare irrigation farm.
In 2010, we looked at various projects in Africa. Finally, we settled on a drylands project in South Sudan near Demazin growing cotton, sorghum, and sunflower. Given the situation in Sudan at this time, and for various other reasons, we pulled out of the project.
Pioneers, technology early adopters, R&D and education
Twynam has a history of being an early adopter of technology, and Johnny has never been afraid of pushing the limits of rapidly changing technologies and investing in those areas.
A name synonymous with advancement, Twynam proudly pioneered the cotton industry into Southern NSW, which has grown from nothing in 1992 to a $350m industry today and growing.
Towards the end of the 1990s, with environmental issues coming to the world's attention, Twynam funded a research project with CSIRO attempting to develop vaccines against methanogens to reduce the methane emissions from sheep and cattle. Unfortunately, the results were not commercially viable, and in 2001 the research was brought to a halt.
The Twynam Chair in Animal Breeding Technologies at the University of New England was funded from 1995 to 2002. This founding investment supported the creation of the Beef Cooperative Research Centre, of which Johnny was a board member for many years. Professor Brian Kinghorn headed the chair and developed TGRM (total genetic resource management), a tool to better match bulls and cows for particular breeding outcomes.
Twynam was one of the first Agricultural companies to have a cadetship program, putting high school graduates through University. Several cadets have become significant contributors to the Agricultural industry, an impressive legacy for the program.
Although the biggest agricultural properties and land holdings are now in Twynam's history books, it's a hard habit to break once farming is in the blood. Still wanting to keep in touch with the rural environment, two smaller farms close to Sydney, totalling 1400 hectares, are still in operation. These are the living heritage of the traditions and values in the Kahlbetzer family history, including the breeding and training of Polo Ponies, the continual development of the Twynam Angus Cattle stud and the production of old-style black pigs. Read more about our agricultural activities here.
This transition from farming has allowed Twynam to plan a new future. In 2010, the Global Financial Crisis created many opportunities, and Twynam invested in several property development projects.
Twynam is continuing with its property interests, but its main focus is now on investing in environmental technologies that do good for us and the planet. Attending COP4 in Buenos Aires in 1998 tempered our resolve to invest in a better Earth. For over 25 years, Twynam has deployed capital in climate solutions, growing some of the world’s most innovative startups.
A new chapter in climate tech
From producing cotton, we now invest in companies converting waste cotton fabrics into new fibres that make amazing new functional clothes. From producing beef and sheep meat, we support the production of alternative, novel protein sources, such as recycling organic waste with insects, cultured meat, or reformulating proteins in novel ways.
From cotton to insects, from steel to fibres, from cattle to precision fermentation, Twynam is always on the hunt for new ways to create value for us and the planet.
We leverage our deep agricultural background for a clear and knowledgeable understanding of what comes from where, how new technologies, products, and processes can improve on the current ones, and why we need solutions that benefit both people and the planet.
We’re driven by a vision of a world where our oceans are free of plastics, our food is grown healthily and efficiently, our energy is naturally sourced, our proteins are sustainable and plentiful and our waste is reusable and recyclable.
You can find out more information about our venture capital investments in climate technology here.
Why We Do It
“Our vision is for sustainable intergenerational growth, prosperity and clean living so that our future generations can enjoy similar attributes of the world that we enjoy today. It is evident that without substantial changes to how we utilize our resources, we are on a path that makes that impossible.
Our resource usage is clearly unsustainable as the world heads to a population of 10 billion people. Food production needs to be doubled but we don’t have twice as much land, soil or water.
Our oceans are drowning in plastic and our carbon emissions are causing our planet to heat up more quickly than at any other time in history. We need solutions and our goal is to find them.”
Twynam Group CEO