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The ‘Spud King’ is selling a hefty part of his empire – but just who is Alan Pye?

In the close-knit world of New Zealand farming, the news that 'Spud King', agribusiness icon Alan Pye, is selling his Coonawarra potato and onion interests will not have gone unnoticed. Though the land is in South Australia, it will still turn agricultural heads this side of the Tasman, as more than 900 hectares of horticultural space is up for grabs – and whoever buys it is onto an absolute winner, though they'll have to have deep pockets to start with.

That's because the land and business assets, known collectively as Coonawarra Fresh Produce (CFP), are expected to go for upward of NZ$13 million. The jointly owned operation remains one of the largest potato and onion producers in South Australia.

Pye-eyed

During 2014 alone, it produced 15,000 tonnes of onions, alongside 8,400 tonnes of potatoes, most of them headed towards major supermarket chains. The buyer will get their hands on 923 hectares of largely contiguous land, which includes 980 mega litres of water privileges for irrigation purposes. Additionally, CFP also includes packing sheds, cold room storage, and no less than four residencies, according to Stock and Land. But just who is Alan Pye, and what's the story of his success?

Mr Pye's beginnings were humble, but quickly grew into something incredible. His life as a potato salesman began when he grew the vegetable while still at school, and his entrepreneurship shone through. A proactive way of thinking and a knack of spotting an opportunity helping his business to grow at a pace just as healthily as his potatoes.

Vegging out

Soon enough, Mr Pye had had created Pye Group, with its headquarters based near the South Island city of Timaru. According to Pye Group's website, they are now one of the largest spud suppliers to the McCain factory that's also based in Timaru. What's more, the Pye Group also grows 20,000 carrots per year, alongside a whole host of other crops. Dairy farming is also a string to Alan Pye's bow, with the Group owning seven farms of that nature, of which they provide grazing stock to their portfolio of more than 9,000 cows.

Though Pye Group is now run by Mr Pye's son, Leighton, Alan still owns 25 per cent of Dairy Holdings, according to the Australian Financial Review. That firm boasts no less than 50 farms and 40,000 cows, covering a not-inconsiderable 14,000 hectares of land. Dairy Holdings isn't where Mr Pye's business interests end, as he has also acquired the largest dairy farm in Tasmania, alongside other South Australian projects.

The National Business Review puts his net worth at $200 million, a figure which is set to swell once CFP is sold – that could buy a whole lot of horticulture clothing!

If you're a fan of potatoes, chances are you've eaten several from one of Alan Pye's farms.