FREE Eyre re-entered the grain marketing space in 2013 as the accumulation agent for respected Western Australian wheat exporter, PlumGrove.
This partnership saw FREE Eyre successfully accumulate grain for PlumGrove’s managed pools and cash programs throughout South Australia.
In early 2015, following two successful seasons, the parties agreed to conclude the partnership and follow new methods of supporting their respective shareholders.
EP Grain was the first significant investment made by FREE Eyre and was based on shareholders’ desire to have an independent grain marketing company committed to marketing their grain. The EP Grain 50/50 joint venture between Emerald Australia Group and FREE Eyre Limited commenced operations in 2008
At the time, the Australian statutory wheat and barley marketing boards had or were in the process of being deregulated, and there existed a serious lack of competition for the region’s grain growers.
EP Grain immediately brought substantial new competition to the Eyre Peninsula’s grain growers lifting prices offered to growers and millions of dollars in extra returns to the region.
On the 24th September 2012, however, the Shareholders of EP Grain announced a change to the ownership structure of the business. FREE Eyre believed that it had achieved the desired result in increasing grain marketing competition on the Eyre Peninsula and could better utilise the value created from the business in other new value adding and competition creating ventures.
As of this date, Emerald Group moved from its existing 50% ownership stake to 100% control of EP Grain.
When ABB Grain was purchased by Canadian based Viterrra in 2009, FREE Eyre recognised that Eyre Peninsula’s farmers needed an independent third party grain handling business to introduce competitive tension to grain storage and handling.
With dividends from its EP Grain joint venture and co-investment from 19 local farming families, FREE Eyre set about constructing a modern bulk grain handling facility at Taragoro near Rudall on central Eyre Peninsula.
At the time, the proposed Centrex Port Spencer (Sheep Hill) multi-commodity export terminal was expected to commence construction. As FREE Eyre was chosen to be the ‘grain operator’ at Port Spencer, EP Storage was to act as an upcountry feeder site to this new port.
During the first two seasons, the site grew to accommodate over 100,000 tons of first hand received grain from the local catchment zone.
The creation of the EP Storage business had a major effect on storage and handling competitiveness in the region. Competitors reduced a range of their storage and handling charges, location differentials were adjusted and significant investment in infrastructure at competing sites was undertaken in order to apply financial pressure to the EP Storage business.
The 2010/11 harvest was one of the wettest periods in living memory. ‘Shot’ grain was a major issue for farmers throughout the region. EP Storage led the industry by offering individual ‘falling numbers’ tests for every load of grain (rather than subjective visual tests, as offered by the competition), thus ensuring that growers were receiving exactly the grain classification they deserved – and the accompanying financial rewards.
We believe that this individual service was a compelling reason for the introduction of ‘falling numbers’ machines to be introduced at many competing sites the following harvest.
After operating for three harvests and having faced significant hurdles in efficiently moving grain through the Port Lincoln export terminal (and the Port Spencer project being indefinitely delayed) it was decided to close the EP Storage site. Whilst FREE Eyre maintains the long term lease over the site and owns the major infrastructure (bunkers, weighbridge, testing huts, machinery shed / workshop) grain handling plant and equipment were sold.
The site remains available to third parties to lease / utilise at commercial rates, or will ideally be retrofitted and reopened for a future grain-exporting terminal.
FREE Eyre Energy is the result of the Board and management concluding that, given the expected growth of energy intensive industries, investment into the energy industry was a wise strategic move. FE Energy works with leading renewable energy companies to investigate and introduce a variety of energy based and carbon abatement initiatives to the farming community.
At the height of the emerging domestic solar industry, FREE Eyre partnered with the Solar Shop to inform Eyre Peninsula farmers of the benefits of considering and investing in solar energy systems on their properties. 75 farming families took advantage of the government backed incentives available at the time and continue to receive the financial rewards and reduced electricity costs to this date.
It was with great disappointment that the Solar Shop went into receivership in early September 2011. FREE Eyre was able to work successfully with the receivers appointed to adminstor the Solar Shop's affairs, resulting in FREE Eyre related 'customers' having their systems installed and operational.