From its conception, over 50 years ago, The Twynam Group has been actively involved in pushing the boundaries across many industries.
Mr. John Dieter Kahlbeter 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 a lot 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 the state of 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, and made 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 3 owned and 1 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, with the sale of 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, that 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 advances, 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 during 1995-2002. 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 up 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. A number of those cadets have become significant contributors to the Agricultural industry, an impressive legacy for the program.
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 environmental projects and the circular economy.
From being cotton producers we now work on converting waste cotton fabrics into new fibres that make amazing new functional clothes. From producing beef and sheep meat we are supporting the production of alternative, novel protein sources either through recycling organic waste through insects, cellular processes or use of sustainable foods in novel ways.
Our agricultural background gives us a very clear and knowledgeable understanding of what comes from where, how and why and how new technologies, products and processes can improve on the current financial and environmental lifecycle costs.
Although the more significant properties and land holdings are now in Twynam's agriculture history, once farming is in the blood, it's a hard habit to break.
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 now preserving old traditions and interests that have grown very close to 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.
You can find out more information about some of these new businesses elsewhere on this website.