The new Elders wool handling business at Rockingham may have been in operation and receiving wool from WA growers since July last year, but it celebrated its official opening last week in front of producers, government officials, industry representatives, suppliers and staff.
The Rockingham site is one part of Elders' $25 million investment into its new wool handling business, which is set to revolutionise the process.
The business builds on Elders' existing wool offering, providing a full end-to-end service to clients.
Its aim is to improve efficiency and outcomes for customers, by getting wool to market faster and in front of international buyers.
Elders general manager agency, Dave Adamson said Elders was excited to be bringing wool handling back into the business.
"Today is a very exciting milestone for Elders which we have been working towards for three years," Mr Adamson said.
"185 years ago the Elder family first began buying and financing wool and here today we honour that legacy as we continue to adapt and innovate in a changing wool industry, with a key focus on our clients and customers.
"Last year we handled 350,000 wool bales nationally but we know we need to continue to adapt and innovate with a key focus on our clients, who are the most important part of our wool business.
"The importance of the wool sector can't be underestimated and we think now is the right time to invest and why we have spent $25m on this site and in Melbourne.
"It is great to bring wool handling back into the Elders business.
"We have been out of the wool handling side of the business for about 20 years but we thought it was the part that was missing.
"With this investment we now control our supply chain from the shearing shed right through to the ship, which we think is very important.
"It allows us to offer our clients across WA a full end-to-end service that provides a quick and easy delivery experience from the farmgate."
The Rockingham site is one of two centres in the Elders wool handling network, with another facility in Ravenhall, Victoria, which started to transition to operations this year.
Elders is investing $25m in the wool handling business, the largest single investment in wool handling this century, signifying a long-term commitment to the Australian wool industry.
"We are very proud to be making this investment, which aims to help our clients deliver the best, sustainable wool supply globally," Mr Adamson said.
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Jackie Jarvis officially opened the Rockingham facility and said she was delighted to be at the event and congratulated Elders on its significant investment in Rockingham.
"Wool is a highly valuable export for WA and has been for generations and is a massive contributor to the State economy," Mr Jarvis said.
"So congratulations to the Elders team on this investment.
"It is always great when we see industry putting millions and millions of dollars on the table, as it shows a huge confidence in the industry."
Elders State livestock and wool manager Dean Hubbard said it was very exciting to have the new facility at Rockingham and to be able to say that from the paddock to the container, an Elders team member was responsible throughout the process.
"We highly value and cherish the importance of our client, wool buyer and exporter relationships, many of which have been generational relationships and this facility will just add to these relationships," Mr Hubbard said.
"Here at Rockingham, any client, transporter, buyer, export enquiry, question, request or issue can and will be answered and acted upon by one of our Elders team members.
"Unlike previously, there is no third party providing services, only our Elders team."
Mr Hubbard said while the wool and sheep industry had experienced serious disruptions over the past two years, Elders hadn't steered away from its vision with this project.
"From the day the project team provided the initial vision and business case, the Elders executive, which gave the green light to proceed with one of the most significant investments in recent wool industry history, has remained focused and committed, turning down the volume on the white noise that undoubtedly comes with any significant disruption and change.
"For them to go the journey with this project and arrive here today is a testament to the commitment of this company to the wool industry and our clients.
"I am pleased to say the narrative in our WA sheep and wool industry is starting to turn for the better and I would like to think this commitment and confidence shown by Elders in this facility and wool industry investment is another positive in the narrative."
The Rockingham centre, which is on the doorstep of the Port of Fremantle, combines wool sales activities with storage and handling operations.
Mr Adamson said the Rockingham centre fit-out had been designed to provide a unique experience for visitors.
"We have created a facility that brings together growers, buyers and Elders staff to connect and see the journey and results of their wool post farmgate," Mr Adamson said.
"The centre delivers state-of-the-art systems and equipment, designed to offer industry-leading innovations and improve traceability and sustainability outcomes within the supply chain.
"The introduction of new technology at this site will make real improvements to sustainability and traceability across the wool supply chain.
"This includes a core machine, which is the first of its kind in Australia and we will have two more like it in Melbourne.
"It is hoped that this, along with the quality showfloor, will mean that the facility will be a welcomed addition to the WA wool industry.
"Since operations commenced, we have received overwhelming support from the industry for Elders' investment here and we are excited to offer our clients this new experience."
Elders wool Rockingham operations manager Ryan Fletcher has been in charge of setting up the new facility and said it hadn't been without its challenges.
"When I got asked to take on the operations managers role I was told Elders had this exciting new venture they were wanting to set up in Rockingham for their wool business with new technologies and software and I was in straight away," Mr Fletcher said.
"It didn't always go to plan with set up and everything had an obstacle.
"We got put onto the site, got delivered this big red machine (core machine), which was the first one in production on this earth and it was like here it is, have a go at it.
"I had new staff and this new machine was like nothing I had seen before and it was like we have to start writing a manual for it.
"Over the past six months, with staff development from people who had never seen a bale of wool, to some that had a little experience, we have managed to conquer this big giant red beast and core wool to the best of our ability and keep up with it to get the wool in the sales.
"The opening of this facility has seen us also get young people into the industry which we thought was going to be tough, but we have trained them up and they are loving it and you would now think they have been working in the industry all of their life."
Mr Fletcher, who has been involved in many different areas of the wool industry in his career, said the best part of this new facility was Elders has started afresh with it.
"We have taken the best parts of all the years that wool brokerage has been happening and have used the opportunity to bring the old school feel back to the wool game but with all the modern technology," Mr Fletcher said.
"This facility allows us to communicate proudly with our clients when we bring them here but also sit with the buyers and catch up.
"There is no separation in this building between staff, growers and buyers, which is a real positive, as we were starting to see separation in the industry happen."