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Industrial olive-press: is it the right and more adequate solution?

What is better? To press olives on their own or have somebody else doing that? The dilemma affects the choices of many, and the answer is not easy. Here is what you ought to know about the machinery, the analysis of costs, the authorization, the personnel, and more

Several olive cultivators dream of closing the productive circle by pressing their olives. Setting up an industrial olive-press means reaching the self-sufficiency and obtain the maximum from the product: even a qualified and professional machinery in an outsourcing firm would generally be standard. A quality in-house press could explore the features, nuances and hidden notes, that is to say the soul, of your own oil.
It is easy to fall in love with the idea, but doing the math is necessary: the current price of oils, the requirements of a press, the high costs of an oil plant, are all issues that are to be answered in order to evaluate the convenience of buy a machine or send the olives to another firm.

The investment
Costs are normally high: between 40.000 and 120.000 €; plus, the structure to host it must be projected according to the current laws. A stock warehouse for the oil is necessary (from 5.000 up to 20.000 € for small-medium business), as well as a room for bottling with the relative machinery (3.000-15.000 €) and the machines to dispose of the husk. An industrial olive-press which can work from 50 kg/h up to 800 kg/h needs a minimum of 50.000, up to a maximum of 150.000 €.

Return on investment
First, a sufficient production of olives is an obvious condition for a good return on the investment. Even more important, the right commercial network is instrumental. The advice here is, consider setting up an in-house press only if you are certain to sell your oil well. The uncertainty does not pay off. The produced oil will guarantee earnings in excess on the budget necessary for the installation of the machinery. Last, it is essential to access financing funds, part free grant, and part cut rate. Given the numbers, the investment would turn out prohibitive without the financial instrument that can help according to the Psr.

Machine choice
The plant should be sized taking into account the real possibilities of the company: if oversized, issues with the quality and will arise, if undersized further fatigue and sleepless nights are looming over. The choice of the proper device should be based on the average yearly production of olives. The daily collection should be evaluated, as well as the personnel to work at the press at the end of the day. This is not enough, though. The varieties have to be taken into account, too. Cultivations with a homogeneous maturation, such as Leccino or Biancolilla, should be picked up in the shortest possible time, to work olives in their best moment. In order to do this, a faster collection is necessary and a larger hourly capacity of the transformation plant is required.
If instead the cultivations permit to work them less hastily, such as Coratina and Frantoio, the collection and press can take a longer time, thus allowing to purchase presses with an inferior hourly capacity and reduced costs, provided that the firm workers can work on that.
A last aspect to consider, without getting into the details of the plant, is what to do with the sub-products of the transfomation: is it better a two-phase or three-phase press?
Summarizing, a in-house firm press is sized upon the average yearly production of olives, divided by the days which are necessary for the collection, and related to the optimal quality of maturation, provided to take into the right account the available personnel and energies.

Personnel
The preparation of the managing personnel is essential, and some machine factories make specialized technicians available to get the machines started and teaching the basics of how to work it. At the beginning an specialized professional on olive oil would help too. The experience would do the rest: problems, setbacks and runs against the clock to reach the goals since the very first campaign are part of the game.

A tough choice
The advantages are clear: collecting olives and pressing them in the span of few hours, total control over the process, possibility of experimenting times, temperatures, presses, etc, cleanliness, no line at the press, press of the own olives only.

Still, there are sveral cons: burocracy, authorization, and especially costs. The daily workload would increase, because other than the pressing itself, the daily preparation of the machine, the nightly cleaning, and the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance should be considered.

It is however hard to find somebody who is unhappy after purchasing a press. Very few would go back and not purchase it, in spite of the issues and problems. For sure, almost everybody agree that owing a machine does not lighten the burden, but increases the fatigue, and purchasing a machine is not so productive to be defined a true “investment”.

by Duccio Morozzo della Rocca
02 november 2009, Technical Area > Olive & Oil

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