RM’s protein powerhouse

04 Jan, 2013 03:00 AM
R.M. Williams Agricultural Holdings’ Rory Richards on the company’s Inglewood, Queensland, property.
R.M. Williams Agricultural Holdings’ Rory Richards on the company’s Inglewood, Queensland, property.

R.M. WILLIAMS Agricultural Holdings (RMWAH) has quietly spent the past three years becoming the largest player in the Australian organic free-range poultry market.

Perhaps best known for a number of controversies since its inception in 2009 – including heavy criticism from the beef industry over the joint federal government purchase and subsequent de-stocking of Henbury Station in the Northern Territory – the company is now on a mission to push out one key message: protein production.

Since purchasing the Inglewood Farms organic free-range poultry company in 2009, RMWAH has expanded the business exponentially, recording 30 per cent year-on-year sales increases and doubling the capacity of the 2072-hectare farm at Inglewood just over the Queensland border.

Having now achieved about 80pc domination of the domestic market – and with growth starting to plateau – the company is looking to the export market.

While the company also backgrounds about 30,000 head of cattle in a good year for the live export market on

its two other Northern Territory properties, “Labelle” and “Welltree”, RMWAH chief operating officer Rory Richards said Inglewood Farms was the income driver of the company.

“From an income-generating perspective, at the moment Inglewood Farms is the only RMWAH business that turns over ($250,000-$500,000) a week,” he said.

“I wouldn’t like to say it’s the flagship, but it certainly is very important. It is what generates our income.

“From a cash-flow perspective, Inglewood Farms stands alone.”

About 90 of the 140 RMWAH employees are based at Inglewood Farms.

Mr Richards – who is on the interim management team – said while the environmental values of RMWAH were important, protein production was the focus of the business.

“Our core business is protein production, that is what we market and sell ourselves on,” he said.

“It’s good for us to have a sound environmental base and we are very proactive in that role.

“Across all our properties we have a strong environmental interest but we found we drifted away from our core principle which is protein production.”

Since purchasing Inglewood Farms, the company has increased the amount of growing sheds to 52, built four state-of-the-art brooding sheds and is currently developing its own bird, bred specifically for the organic market.

With the exception of the purchase of grain, the business is completely vertically integrated.

“We’ve doubled our capacity and we’ve doubled our production,” Mr Richards said.

“That’s where exports are playing such a major role right now – we’ve almost saturated the domestic market.”

The company also owns the 45,000ha “Mirage Plains” aggregation in western Qld, which it uses to grow organic grain for Inglewood Farms, however, this land package is on the market.

Mr Richards said when Inglewood Farms was first purchased “Mirage Plains” supplied about 60pc of its grain needs.

However, with turnoff now about 30,000 birds each week – and set to continue rising – “Mirage Plains” only satisfies about 5pc of that need.

Once “Mirage Plains” sells, RMWAH plans to hit the market in search of a broadacre cropping property which can produce a larger amount of organic grain for the Inglewood Farms business.

While organic free-range poultry is the driver of the business, Mr Richards said they also planned to increase beef production in the Northern Territory.

With the success of that part of the business tied to the volatile live export market, Mr Richards said RMWAH was sweating on the imminent construction of the Australian Agricultu-

ral Company abattoir in the NT.

“We’ve always believed that live export has a limited time frame. We see the development of an abattoir in the NT as critical,” he said.

“Our model calls for further processing in the NT.

“Our interested investment partners are looking for that.

“They want to be able to process onshore and take it offshore, they don’t want live export.”

The company wants to expand its footprint in the NT and Mr Richards said they were looking to purchase a breeder block – with a turnoff of between 20,000 to 30,000 head a year – within the next 12 months.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


4/01/2013 6:10:40 AM

Organic Free-range, that term has really been hijacked. I think the confinement poultry sheds in the background of the photo suggest the birds aren’t really free range.
John Newton
4/01/2013 8:33:03 AM

To be fair, zgj, if you go to their website, you'll see they do comply very well with stocking and are certified. But I know what you mean. I'm very dubious about big organic and don't see how an exported or imported product like chicken can be regarded as organic, even if it does comply. But the problem is with the system. Instead of being satisfied with good profits, some businesses chase super profits. And in the long run people and animals suffer. Recommend all good farmers on this site read this, from Wendell Berry: neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-le cture/wendell-e-berry-lecture
4/01/2013 9:09:33 AM

It looks like there is a fence at the right hand side of the photo - that is where the chickens go when they open the shed. Looks like both sheds have a fenced in area for the chooks. It looks okay for me.
4/01/2013 11:37:43 AM

I wonder if their stocking rate exceeds 1500 birds/hectare, by the look of those sheds I doubt it is anywhere near that. Got to love corporate farming, sounds like they very nearly have a monopoly position.
4/01/2013 1:56:09 PM

It's all in the name isn't it. Let's get the 'truth in labelling' laws in play and establish some proper standards for 'free-range' and 'organic' and that will soon sort it out. At the moment a 'free-range' egg producer in WA has way over even 20,000 pa but still sells as 'free range'! Not fair...how can the honest guys compete?
4/01/2013 5:07:28 PM

Organic standards are very clear about ranging, which is mandatory for organic certification. All information on this and free download of the Australian Certified Organic Standard can be found at www.bfa.com.au
7/01/2013 1:15:37 AM

It looks like a perfect day in the photo to have the chooks outside. Why are they locked up still. I'm guessing having the yard and using it are two different things. Also from what I've seen of chickens raised in confinement, they probably can't walk outside anyway as they're too weak.


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