A BROILER poultry farm development which will turn out up to 2.4 million birds at least five times a year and more than double processor Inghams WA conventional chicken supply is being proposed for Mogumber.
The six-farm, 46-shed project is expected to cost more than $34m and is part of a $400m national supply and processing network expansion announced in June by Inghams Enterprises Pty Ltd.
For at least the past six years Inghams in WA has relied on importing substantial tonnages of poultry product from South Australia - where the bulk of expansion funding is being spent - because its dwindling number of conventional WA suppliers could not meet growing demand.
The proposed broiler farms will take day-old chicks from Inghams' Wanneroo hatchery and raise them on Inghams-supplied feed in controlled-atmosphere tunnel-ventilation sheds.
The farms are proposed to be accredited under the RSPCA's Approved Farming Scheme.
Being within 100 kilometres of Inghams' hatchery, feedmill and its Osborne Park processing plant - as well as access to a substantial groundwater supply from the Mirrabooka aquifer and a second surficial aquifer - were major factors in Mogumber being selected as the location for the project.
The proposed development would have sheds with a total roof area of 108,494 square metres, up to 69 feed storage silos, six staff amenities buildings including lunchrooms and showers, and six brick-veneer farm manager residences.
These are to be built on a 1500 hectare property between Mogumber West Road and Red Gully Road, with one entrance to the fenced site and at least a kilometre between each cluster of sheds to enhance biosecurity.
Once completed, the project is expected to create between 30 and 35 permanent jobs for local people.
The Mogumber proposal is a slightly larger adaption of a $34m, 42-shed, free-range poultry development completed in Blanchetown, South Australia, last year by Ipswich, Queensland, based specialist shed builder Santrev to supply Inghams.
Santrev has its own factory in China producing prefabricated steel work for poultry and livestock shedding.
It has partnered with Muchea poultry farmer Tony Young for the Mogumber project.
Mr Young, Santrev director and general manager Luke Trevanion and Ipswich accountant Martin Sammut, as executives of Western Riverlands Poultry which is trustee for Western Riverlands Poultry Properties Trust, outlined their proposal to Victoria Plains Shire council.
As the project is valued at more than $10m it will go direct to the WA Planning Commission via its Development Assessment Panel process, where the council may have a say.
The three also outlined their project to a well-attended public meeting held in conjunction with the Mogumber Progress Association at the Mogumber hall a fortnight ago.
Mr Young, who was a farmer in the Great Southern before becoming a poultry farmer at Muchea about 10 years ago, later confirmed Western Riverlands Poultry had agreed to buy a farming property at Lot 10 Mogumber West Road for the project.
Purchase was conditional on the proposal receiving all necessary approvals, he said.
"We have started the environmental approvals process and are about to start the planning approvals process," Mr Young said.
"We're not expecting any delays it is based on what they (Santrev) have done in other places, involves minimal land clearing and complies with all (animal welfare, biosecurity, pest control, environmental and nuisance) regulations and standards.
"All going well, we should have the first couple of sheds operating by the middle of next year.
"Luke will build the development and once it's up and running then I'll be managing it.
"I think it should be pretty exciting news for WA and particularly Mogumber because everyone likes a local product, and that goes for Coles and Woolworths as much as anyone else."
Mr Young said the project was proposed as a conventional poultry operation but the design with a minimum distance of 26 metres between sheds would allow for easy conversion to free-range production by installing lift-up sides.
"At the moment Inghams is looking to secure more of its conventional broiler supply, but it may well be that in future the market wants more free-range.
"If that's the case, we can convert the sheds over to free range.
"It all depends on what the market wants.
Mr Young said the project would employ local people.
"If it produces a quality local product and it employs local people, then locals will have pride in it," he said.
Information provided at the public meeting stated the proposal was "driven by consumer demand for quality chicken meat by the main supermarket retailers, being Woolworths and Coles".
Victoria Plains Shire west ward councillor Pauline Carr, who was at the public meeting, said Mogumber residents who attended appeared to be "fairly positive" about it.
"All the normal sort of questions you would expect to be asked about a large scale poultry operation were asked and answered," Ms Carr said.
She said a lot of people from across the broader region also attended and it seemed their interest was in the employment opportunities the proposal might provide.
Inghams general manager public affairs Dr Andreas Dubs said while it was not strictly an Inghams project, the proposed "new shedding is a welcome development from our point of view".
Started in NSW in 1918 and operated as a family business for 80 years, Inghams is Australia and New Zealand's largest integrated poultry producer, processing more than four million birds a week.
It was sold to San Francisco-founded global private equity group TPG Capital for $880m in 2013.
As part of a strategy to expand capacity and improve productivity across its national network, in June Inghams announced a $400m expansion plan in conjunction with its supply partners, focusing mainly on South Australia and Queensland with smaller investments in WA and Victoria.
At the same time, it announced it was closing its Cardiff, NSW, processing plant with the loss of up to 199 full and part-time jobs.
It has about 260 farms supplying birds, eight hatcheries, 10 feed mills, seven primary processing and five further processing plants across Australia and New Zealand.
A family company operating for 39 years, Santrev describes itself as Australia's "pre-eminent" builder of poultry sheds.
It has built poultry farms in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to supply both Inghams and Baiada (Steggles and Lilydale Free Range brands), the predominant commercial poultry producers in Australia.
The son-in-law of one of Santrev's founders, Mr Trevanion ran the company's 200,000 bird broiler farm before moving across to shed building 16 years ago.
p Chicken solid as beef prices plateau. See page 31.