Farm boom on KI as Growth restocks former Kerry Stokes properties

Kangaroo Island's farm sector is set to benefit after agricultural fund manager Growth Farms purchased several properties formerly owned by billionaire media mogul Kerry Stokes.

This agricultural sector on KI is already booming after several years of near record commodity prices for both prime lambs and wool, as well as grains and other crops.

Cygnet Park Farm's new managers, led on Island by Paul Bott, are in the process of restocking the properties with 12,000 additional sheep sourced from on Island and as far away as NSW.

"We are undertaking a restructure with a refocus and shift away from cattle and back to sheep," Mr Bott said. "That combined with input and infrastructure improvements, means we hope to see an increase in productivity."

The plan was to have a mixed herd of 50/50 merinos for wool and prime lambs for meat. The company will do a bit of mixed cropping. 

There will be some cattle retained on the property for at the least the next five years, when the plan would be reassessed, he said.

Given the climate and reliable rainfall, as well as excellent commodity prices for both meat and wool, sheep were seen as giving the biggest gross profit margin per hectare.

He said the Growth company was very progressive and had seen a lot of potential on KI, in both its people and properties.

"What attracted me to the new position was that Growth is very keen to employ local people and support local businesses and for me that is a big thing."

Mr Bott is just winding up his duties with Landmark.

"I only agreed to take on this new role because I am extremely confident that Landmark has a team of highly skilled and capable people able to offer all the services that agriculture on KI needs," he said.

He will also be managing the Balquidder property on the Fleurieu for Growth.

AgKI chairman Rick Morris said the take over by Growth was very positive for the Island, particularly the restocking of thousands of sheep.

"They are a very progressive company that uses the latest technology and systems," Mr Morris said. "It will mean more people working on the farms and more investment in the local economy and businesses."

Cygnet Park Farms was established in 2007 under the stewardship of veteran cattleman Peter Murray. 

The aggregation of farms steadily expanded over the years, most recently in June 2015 when Woodlana Station, a 2823-hectare landholding at Cassini was acquired for $4.7 million.

Other properties in the aggregation include 550-hectare Clifton Downs, bought in 2010, and Long Hill Station.

The properties making up Cygnet Park Farms cover 7821 hectares are considered the largest single landholding on Kangaroo Island.

The aggregation came to market in September 2017 and that time included a herd of about 3300 cattle and 15,700 sheep.

NSW-based Growth Farms invests and manages assets on behalf of a "global network of high net worth individuals, family office and institutional clients".

Growth Farms has close to $500 million in farm assets under management, according to company spokesperson James Keen.

"Growth Farms along with its respective clients are excited about the purchase and being on Kangaroo Island," Mr Keen said. 

Mr Murray, one of Australia's most experienced cattlemen, told the Australian Financial Review that he decided to bring the portfolio to market in order to focus on other business interests as he transitioned into retirement.

Last year, another WA billionaire, mining tycoon Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, acquired the De Mole estate on the northwest corner of Kangaroo Island from South Australia's Brown and Wilkinson families in a deal worth about $10 million, according to the Financial Review.

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