By JOHN DOOLEY

AGROMILLORA Australia is hosting an open field day at SuniTAFE’s Smart Farm next Thursday, where the company will showcase its commitment to agricultural efficiency, particularly in the olive sector.

Agromillora is a world-leading company in fruit and olive tree propagation, and was founded in 1986. It now has a presence in 10 countries, including Turkey, the US, Chile, Brazil, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Jordan.

Agromillora established a new branch in Australia at Irymple in 2017, becoming one of the leaders in the propagation and distribution of young plants for commercial use in the region, thanks to their advanced facilities and tissue-culture laboratory.

Agromillora field day convenor and sales representative, Alessio Toccaceli, PICTURED, said stakeholders attending the day will have the opportunity to see first-hand the system that can transform an orchard from a labour-intensive based business into a fully-mechanised, advanced olive grove.

“The Super High Density system was developed about 30 years ago in Spain, and there are more than 300,000 hectares of plantations around the world,” he said. 

“The inventor of the system was a wine grape grower who experimented by planting ‘dwarf’ olive trees, which he could then use his mechanised grape-harvester to harvest the olives in exactly the same way he would his grapes, without any modifications.

“The speed of the harvesting is basically the same as the wine grapes, which is approximately a rate of one hectare per hour.

“This means that the olives are processed within the day, which has a number of benefits and ultimately enhances the quality of the olive oil.

“The other important feature of the SHD olive is its tolerance to a lower water environment. If you think about the scarcity of water, low rainfall and the cost of irrigated water rising, it is an important factor.”

Mr Toccaceli said that while the olive plantations use more water per hectare than wine grapes, the SDH olive can be favourably compared to the water volumes required for wine grapes, because of the other associated efficiencies.

“The water required for the olives is about five to 10 percent higher than the grape vines per year in a similar size plantation,” he said. 

“It takes in the region of 3.5 to 3.7 megalitres per year for the grape vines and around four megalitres for the olives, in both examples this is a much lower volume than is required to grow table grapes.

“The option to grow olives rather than grape vines is therefore a viable alternative.”

Mr Toccaceli said that the additional cost for the water required for the olive production is more than off-set by the lower input-costs across the growing season.

“The SHD olive production costs are less due to low maintenance requirements and fully mechanised, non-labour intensive harvesting,” he said.

Mr Toccaceli said the SHD olive was already proving to be a success in many parts of the world.

“It’s popular throughout Europe, and is gaining popularity in California and other countries,” he said. 

“The uptake in Australia is a little slower, there are some plantations at Gin Gin in Western Australia, but it’s still relatively unknown, something we are working hard to change.”

Mr Toccaceli said that existing growers could easily transition from the traditional olive tree to the smaller, less production-intensive SHD olive tree.

“The SHD system is customised around the plant which is a dwarfed plant which doesn’t grow any taller than 2.7-2.8 metres in height, whereas traditional olive tress can reach more than seven or eight metres, which is too high for a conventional grape harvester to tackle,” he said.

“The secret to producing a high-yielding SHD olive tree is consistent attention in regard to pruning, spraying, watering and harvesting.”

The field day will include presentations from Croplogic and will get under way at 8.30am. Following the Smart Farm sessions,  there will be a tour of Varipodio Estate in Buronga.

For further information contact Alessio Toccaceli on 0497 449 888 or email atoccaceli@agromillora.com.