Olive oil is a key product of the European agro-alimentary sector, and is increasingly recognised by consumers worldwide as part of a healthy diet due to its elevated oleic acid content, and antioxidant properties. Around 2 million tonnes of olive oil are produced each year in the EU by mainly SME olive producers, cooperatives, mills, refiners, blenders, and distributors, employing some 800,000 people. The EU is world’s major olive oil producer and consumer, but faces increased competition from non-EU Mediterranean and other countries including Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, and the USA, which have large extensions of land suited to high-density cultivation of olives. Olives contain around 17-26% by weight of oil. Virgin olive oil production involves crushing of the olives and separation of the oil from the solid matter and vegetable water, however, current processes suffer from limitations in olive oil yield and quality, and energy usage. OILPULSE will overcome such limitations by complementing existing and new mill equipment with pulsed electric field (PEF) technology - an emerging food technology, which can be used to improve process yield as a less energy and time consuming alternative to thermal or enzymatic treatment. It is being applied to a wide range of food products at pilot plant scale and also for non-thermal commercial food preservation whilst retaining fresh food characteristics. The expected benefits of OILPULSE are: •Increased virgin olive oil yield •Increased virgin olive oil phytonutrient content, to improve consumer health benefits and olive oil shelf life. •Reduction of olive paste temperature during processing, to provide energy savings, and improved oil quality whilst retaining yield. The benefits of the novel OILPULSE technology could also be applied to the mechanical extraction of other edible oils and oils for bio-diesel production.
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeBSG-SME - Research for SMEs