There are numerous California examples of successful conversions from hand to mechanical harvest including most nut crops, citrus, tomatoes, dates, figs, prunes, wine grapes, and olive oil olives.

Dan Flynn, Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center was impressed with both mechanical harvesters’ ability to harvest 120 trees per hour. “With some fine tuning and development of best practices, I can see growers getting excited about investing in new table olive orchards like they did with olive oil.”

For existing olive orchards the technology remains unproven, and with the younger trees there will be some necessary re-tooling. This may include refinement of practices such as the introduction of rigorous pruning of the younger orchards under 30 years old. Watering techniques, plant breeding choices, soil mineral content, and a host of variables will need careful consideration. Many relevant ideas were presented this week by visiting horticultural scholars.

Also in attendance was retiring District 2 Congressman Wally Herger, who has been an advocate for California growers. “Growers will need both state and federal support for research and development” added Adin Hester. “There is great potential here for the industry to prosper and offer premium domestic olives that will be globally competitive. At the same time it will build the agriculture economy of California.”

Prospective incentive programs may include specialty state block and crop grants, NIFA and Farm Bill opportunities.