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Erregulla sale now in plain sight

Cally DupeCountryman

Corporate grain farming baron Daybreak Cropping has come clean on one of the worst-kept secrets in WA’s agricultural community — it has bought the 22,000ha Erregulla Plains near Mingenew.

The purchase of the Smart family’s historic property marks Daybreak Cropping’s third WA property purchase and its first in WA’s northern Wheatbelt.

The national cropping company also bought the 15,000ha Bodallin Farms in the Shire of Yilgarn in April, and the 6500ha Waddikee Farms near Ravensthorpe in early 2018.

It also marks the biggest farm sale and monetary value since WA’s biggest farmer John Nicoletti sold his 200,000ha cropping portfolio in the eastern Wheatbelt for $60 million in April last year.

The Erregulla Farms sale is rumoured to have been worth $97 million.

Located 2km west of Mingenew and once owned by innovative farmer Sir Eric Smart, Erregulla Plains was put on the market in August, and was taken off the market in November.

At the time, third- generation farmer Stuart Smart and his wife Cherie — who cropped 15,000ha — wanted to sell the property to pursue other ventures.

On Monday, Daybreak Cropping’s asset management company Warakirri Asset Management confirmed Daybreak had bought the 21-title property as “one contiguous block” — confirming what Countryman had reported on January 23.

Daybreak Cropping chief executive Will Heath declined to speak to media on Monday, or confirm what the land would be used for.

In a statement, he said the company was pleased to have an asset of Erregulla Plains’ quality.

“Its scale, efficiencies, stage of development and proximity to the Port of Geraldton make it a highly attractive asset,” Mr Heath said.

“In addition, it is our first asset in the Northern Wheatbelt of WA, and therefore provides important diversification benefits for the business.

“We look forward to continuing the responsibly stewardship of the asset and contributing positively to the Mingenew community.”

In 1949, Victorians Sir Eric Smart and Lady Jean purchased the initial 10,000ha of Erregulla Plains and set out to tame its sandy soil. Introducing superphosphate and sowing hundreds of acres of sand-plain lupins, Sir Eric successfully rejuvenated the land’s depleted nitrogen levels and built his cropping empire.

The grain grower developed into the southern hemisphere’s biggest grain producer by 1960 with crops reaching as much as 12,100 tonnes.

The property sale includes a 435sqm main homestead, about 100km of internal roads, staff accommodation, a helicopter shed, chemical shed, workshop, multiple machinery sheds, 1000sqm grain shed and 700sqm shearing shed.

Daybreak Cropping was formed in 2016 as a partnership between Warakirri Asset Management and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board, coined PSP.

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