Researchers Unveil the Latest Technologies to Help Harvest and Produce Olive Oil

After four years, the researchers behind the Innolivar project presented some of their work at the University of Córdoba in Andalusia. 

The project focused on developing 12 separate pieces of technology and lines of investigation related to the mechanization of olive groves, improving sustainability, climate change mitigation tactics and developing biotechnology and traceability technology.

Since the project began in 2017, researchers from the university and their partners in the private sector have worked to develop new patents and build prototypes that will eventually be sold to olive farmers and oil producers in response to what some of the industry’s largest stakeholders told the researchers they needed most.

Among the technologies developed by the researchers were two meant to help both traditional growers and high-density farmers.

For traditional growers, the researchers developed a “multipurpose vehicle for work in sloping olive groves that are difficult to mechanize.”

Jesús Gil Rebes, a professor of agroforestry at the University of Córdoba and the project’s scientific director, told Olive Oil Times the researchers decided to develop this project due to the high number of deaths in Spain caused by overturned tractors, which he estimated at one each week.

“In Andalusia, the main producing region, with almost 80 percent of the total, there are more than half a million hectares with average slopes greater than 15 percent and more than a quarter of a million with more than 25 percent,” he said.

The new vehicles feature articulated joints on each of the four independent wheels, which along with the help of hydraulic cylinders, allow the vehicle to change its track width and center of gravity while moving on slopes.

“In addition, the cabin is self-leveling, and the tractor can work on side slopes of up to 45 percent,” Gil Rebes added.

As a result, the new vehicle will allow traditional farmers to work on steeper slopes. He added that the vehicle also features numerous hitches, allowing farmers to use different tools simultaneously.

Meanwhile, the researchers have manufactured a self-propelled harvester for high-density groves to quickly and efficiently gather the olives.

Gil Rebes said the idea behind this machine is to reduce the number of people required to harvest the olives.

Instead of the traditional teams of 10 people, including the machine operatory and crew that helped move the canvas and collect the fallen fruit, the new machine will reduce the number to two or three.

The goal of these harvesters is to reduce the cost of collecting olives. However, Gil Rebes said they could also be adapted to other crops, including citrus and almonds.

“There are two types of combines developed,” he said. “Those based on trunk vibration and simultaneous mechanical shaking of the crown, which is done by olive growers who are riding harvesters on intensive [high-density] olive groves and who need the help of automated support systems to detect trunks by the vibrator clamp and for its vibration. This work is intermittent.”

There are also “those based on lateral cup shakers equipped with trunk detection systems that allow their driving to be semi-automated and olive tree crown detection systems so that the shaker elements can automatically adapt to them. This work is continuous,” Gil Rebes added. More