Milne spreads wings into high-tech sheds

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

WA's biggest free-range chicken farm will rely on technology from northern Europe to produce about four million birds a year for the Milne AgriGroup.

The farm's output when in full production will double the number of chickens processed under the Mt Barker Free Range Chicken brand as Milne's plans for a huge increase in meat protein sales begin to take shape.

Developer Mark McAuliffe hopes to begin production early next year after reaching the final stage in the approval process for the multimillion-dollar project on a 602ha site about 60km north-east of Albany.

The Great Southern Development Assessment Panel will meet on Monday to consider a recommendation to approve the plan subject to various conditions, including roadworks, pest control and environmental safeguards.

Milne approached Mr McAuliffe about the future of his farm soon after he harvested blue gum plantations on the property.

"It was just fortunate that I was looking to do something with the property at the time Milne was looking to expand," he said.

Mr McAuliffe, who operates a commercial vineyard in Margaret River and runs his own law firm, will fund the $9 million construction of 18 high-tech sheds and associated infrastructure in partnership with local and overseas investors.

Milne will own the birds and provide feed under its standard production model. Milne owner Graham Laitt said the company was also looking to increase production with existing suppliers and develop another farm with capacity to produce millions of chickens a year.

Mr Laitt is targeting high-end Asian markets and domestic customers who put a high price on animal welfare to grow his chicken, pork and beef businesses.

Mr McAuliffe said his farm would adopt the latest in ventilation and climate control technology from Denmark and the Netherlands to minimise odour and nuisance factors for neighbours.

The farm will source about 60 megalitres of water a year from its dams, from desalinated groundwater and by capturing an estimated 24ML of run-off from shed roofs. There are plans to use solar or wind power in the long-term.

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