22 November 2023

Griffith's David Bartter sells 27,000-hectare Ballandry property to Canadian-backed Excel Farms

| Oliver Jacques
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Ballandry station crops

Ballandry station has finally been sold on its third attempt. Photo: CBRE Agriculture.

Chicken farm pioneer David Bartter has sold his 26,839-hectare cropping property Ballandry Station, 37 km north of Griffith, to Excel Farms, a Victorian-based joint venture between Australian farmers and a Canadian investment fund.

While the sale price has not been disclosed, the property was advertised as expecting to fetch $120 million.

The expansive land area sold comprised 16 individual dryland cropping farms, which were gradually acquired and developed by Mr Bartter over the past 40 years.

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While Excel Farms declined Region’s request to comment on the sale or its future plans, the company posted an online job advertisement for a machinery operator to work on large-scale grain production at Ballandry on Monday (20 November).

The property had previously been put on the market for sale in 2018 and 2021, though sales never proceeded at those times.

The overall Ballandry offering included 20,000 tonnes of grain and fertiliser storage as well as machinery sheds, workshops, plant, equipment and access to Murrumbidgee Irrigation water with 45,457 delivery entitlements.

“By improving the soils, we are now able to grow crops with much higher yields on less rainfall than what we have ever been able to do before,” Mr Bartter said.

David Bartter and his late brother Peter are best known in Griffith for launching a then-small chicken farming venture called Bartter Enterprises from their garage in 1955.

This company steadily grew to become the town’s biggest employer and Australia’s second-largest poultry producer by the 1990s.

Bartter Enterprises was bought by rival Baiada Poultry in 2009, at a time it was processing more than 2.4 million chickens a week.

The Bartter brothers continued to invest in various agricultural ventures. In 2012, they appeared on the Business Review Weekly Rich List as being among the wealthiest families in Australia, with an estimated family fortune of $305 million.

David is now aged 89.

“[We] see this new sale campaign as the last offer of my lifetime of work of building the Ballandry Station aggregation of farms. It is time for new stewardship,” he said in a statement when the sale was being finalised in June.

The fertile land at Ballandry, near Myall Park, has attracted many prospective farmers since the late 1800s. A school was opened in Ballandry in 1927 but closed in 1933.

an old photo of a shed

Ballandry School was closed in 1933. Photo: Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society.

The recent sale of Ballandry Station was managed by Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE).

“We wish the purchasers every success in the future,” CBRE’s Boo Harvey said. “They have secured one of the largest cropping properties in the region and we look forward to watching Ballandry enter its next chapter under this new stewardship.”

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According to a CBRE statement, the property has benefitted from a regular fertiliser and liming programs as well as the incorporation of legumes into crop rotations.

Current crop rotations include wheat, barley, canola and legumes such as lupins and vetch.

Average long-term wheat yields at Ballandry have been 2.5 tonnes per hectare, however in recent years Mr Bartter said the property has been able to produce well above three tonnes per hectare.

The buyer Excel Farms is headquartered in the town of Ararat in Victoria. This company launched in 2020 and since then has acquired agricultural land in Victoria and South Australia. Ballandry Station is its first Riverina asset.

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