About a mile west of Highway 113 on Hutchinson Road, something ground breaking, with the potential to revolutionize the olive oil industry in California, is happening and the UC Davis Olive Center is at the center of it all. A crowd huddled around what looked like a modest mobile home trailer in those west campus olive orchards one cool December morning to see a demonstration of the first mobile milling unit in North America. The certified organic O2B (olive to bottle) unit is small enough to maneuver and park right between rows of olive trees and has the capacity, each hour, to mill 50 tons of olives and bottle 10,000 bottles of oil. On the day of the demonstration, the unit was scheduled to mill 3,500 pounds of olives producing 70 gallons of oil.
The process is quite amazing. First, bins of olives are moved up to the outside of the unit, and a vacuum tube sucks them into a hopper inside the unit. They are then sucked into an auger that pulls the leaves off and washes them before going into a hammer press, which crushes and chops the olives. The mash then moves to a mixing tank that turns the mash into a paste while gently heating the mixture to help extract the oils. After about 45 to 60 minutes, the paste then moves through a tube to a centrifuge that further helps to separate the oil. From one end oil drips out in a steady stream and is collected. From the other side, water and waste from the paste is extracted.