WA grain king John Nicoletti went on a $30 million farm buying spree in 2019, despite making plans the prior year to retire from farming. His portfolio, held under Apache Investments Australia, includes five recently purchased multi-million dollar properties over 26,000ha, stretching from Bordon to Gingin and to his old stomping ground in the central and eastern Wheatbelt. Mr Nicoletti bought a $5.25 million farm at Gingin in April 2019. Four months later he paid $2.2m for a property in Cleary, in the Shire of Mt Marshall, followed by a $6.7m purchase in nearby Tampu. Mr Nicoletti’s Apache also spent $8.3m buying land in Hyden. His biggest purchase was a $9.6m farm at Borden. “I did plan to exit farming but couldn’t help myself,” Mr Nicoletti said. Outside Apache, Mr Nicoletti took on a 20,000ha lease at Warrenup near Esperance, under a five-year agreement with an option to extend. Mr Nicoletti said the Gingin, Borden and Clearly properties were being leased to others. On properties he is operating, Mr Nicoletti has planted grain crops and is running livestock. “The other farms are being leased to get a return on investment,” he said. He said the farms he is leasing involve farmers he considered worthy, and who in some cases needed a hand up to get started. Mr Nicoletti was once the biggest owner of Wheatbelt land. In 2019 he sold his 200,000ha eastern wheatbelt farm to the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company, including 40,000 sheep, plant and machinery, for $65m-$70m. The deal marked the sale of WA’s biggest sheep flock and the biggest sale of broadacre farming land in Australia. When he first listed the sale Mr Nicoletti declared he was exiting farming and would concentrate on his string of John Deere dealerships throughout the Wheatbelt. AgImplements, comprising six John Deere dealerships in the Wheatbelt, has since been put on the market with a management buyout being the most likely outcome. Rumoured value is about $40m. Mr Nicoletti intends to buy more land when the dealerships sell. “Ideally I’d be looking close to what I call home as it’s a safer area. If a good parcel comes up in say Quairading, Corrigin or Varley, I’d have a crack provided it was a good farm at the right price,” he said.