Thursday, December 8, 2022

Farmers buy Western District net zero aggregation from US giant

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Woorondoo Aggregation

US-backed agricultural investment firm Laguna Bay is selling the Woorndoo Aggregation broadacre cropping portfolio in Victoria’s Western District for about $70 million to two local farming families.

It marks the next step in Laguna Bay’s selldown of its Australian assets, arriving one year after it offloaded Banongill Station, also in the Western District, for $80 million to a consortium of local farming families.

Spanning 3,350 hectares across three contiguous sites, Woorndoo is a high-yielding dryland cropping operation producing winter cereals, oilseed and pulse crops.

Laguna Bay aggregated the portfolio over the past five years and converted a considerable area from grazing to cropping, and improved all cropping land with raised bed and water development.

It also focused on rehabilitation of riparian areas and soil health restoration, and carbon auditor Carbon Friendly confirmed a net zero climate impact across the aggregation.

The divestment is being completed over separate deals. According to The Weekly Times, the buyers are Ian and Camilla Shippen from Moulamein in southern NSW – who acquired Mount Fyans in the Western District for $37 million three years ago – and Clinton Ross, who has farming interests in western Victoria.

The Shippens run a crossbred sheep enterprise under the Banyandah Pastoral banner in Wagga Wagga.

Laguna Bay founder and managing director, Tim McGavin, said the result was the product of a solid investment strategy and strong agricultural sector.

“We have converted a lot of country at Woorndoo to cropping and, in doing so, significantly increased the arability of the property,” McGavin said.

“That has been reflected in the sales result we’ve been able to achieve, which has also occurred at a time of record prices for Australian farmland, which is a pleasing result for our investors.”

The transaction was negotiated through LAWD and Elders Real Estate and is expected to settle post-harvest in the first quarter of 2022.

A significant amount of plant and equipment will be sold by Elders Ballarat via a clearance sale early next year.

Laguna Bay holds large-scale dairy, wine, northern dryland cropping and beef investments. In 2019 it also sold almond plantations spanning 12,000 hectares in northern Victoria along with almost 90,000 megalitres of high-security water for $860 million to Canada’s PSP Investments.

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