When passionate environmentalists Tom and Emma Lane set up their eco-venture The Farm Byron Bay with a group of high-profile sustainable micro-businesses, they had no idea how it would go.
But five years later, and with companies eager to join, investors keen to become involved and more than half a million visitors a year, they’ve now decided to put their farm “for the people” up for sale for a cool $20 million-plus.
It’s not, however, that they’re planning to cash in on the concept. Instead, they’re hoping a strategic investor will come forward to help them realise their ambitious plans to roll out the concept in four or five other locations, with talks centring on the possibilities of Victoria, Queensland, California, Florida and even, perhaps, Italy.
“It is a passion project and it’s been hugely successful in educating people about sustainability and where food comes from,” said Mr Lane, an heir to the Oroton fashion empire.
“And we’re still passionate about everything we’ve achieved and want to achieve.
“So we’re offering parts of the farm for sale and looking for a strategic investor to get involved to help us roll out all over the country, and overseas. We feel we have a very strong blueprint, we’re connected to the project and we want to see it grow further.”
The couple set up The Farm Byron Bay because Mr Lane grew up with regular stays on his family’s farm and wanted to replicate that lifestyle for his own family. Ms Lane was involved in nutrition so it was also the perfect fit for her.
“Now we have a model that works, so we really want to expand,” she said. “I’m passionate about nutrition and eating good food so it’s combining both our interests.
“Living in the corporate world, we wanted a way to move forward to give our kids the childhood we had.”
The 31.7-hectare property – run with the ethos “Grow. Feed. Educate. Give Back” – has tenants including restaurateur and produce store Three Blue Ducks, the bakery The Bread Social, the growers’ collective Market Garden, gelato-maker Baylato and educators who provide a series of courses and workshops on subjects such as agro-ecology, cheese-making and fermentation.
It’s being sold via an expressions of interest campaign, closing on February 26 and conducted by Wayne Bunz, national director of the CBRE Hotels investment and brokerage team, and Hayley Manvell, senior negotiator with the hotels division.
The plan was to sell it off-market, until news of the property being up for sale leaked.
“This is a unique offering and as rare as rocking horse poo,” said Mr Bunz. “The council is extremely tough on development so to have a farm with a brand as strong as this one that’s very successful and so much land with the potential to develop in future is a great opportunity.
“Properties like this just don’t come along very often.”
Byron Bay is currently going through a major boom with commercial real estate being snapped up for record prices.
One of the country’s best-known pubs, The Beach Hotel, recently sold for $104 million to investment bankers Moelis, and Gerry Harvey’s resort The Byron at Byron was bought for $41.7 million by billionaire Ghassan Aboud.
The area also is home of some of the biggest movers and shakers of Australian industry, some of its most successful tech entrepreneurs and a healthy smattering of Hollywood and TV celebrities.
“Byron is just very hot at the moment and isn’t reliant on Chinese visitors,” said Mr Bunz. “The Farm is very popular with tourists and locals alike, and we’re going to start at $20 million, but who knows where it’ll end up?”