Spanish olive com­pany Grupo Elayo is pio­neer­ing new uses for pre­vi­ously dis­carded olive byprod­ucts by extract­ing seeds from olive pits using spe­cial opti­cal sort­ing tech­nol­ogy, for pos­si­ble phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, food and cos­metic appli­ca­tions.

The com­pany, based in Spain’s Jaèn region, was founded just five years ago by engi­neer and econ­o­mist Josè Maria Olmo Peinado, who has years of expe­ri­ence in the indus­try. With olive seeds being found to con­tain impres­sive antiox­i­dant and polyphe­nol qual­i­ties, Peinado hopes it could be the next big super­food to hit the mar­ket.

According to Raschid Stoffel, Grupo Elayo’s Business Development Director, the deci­sion to research the use of olive seeds began through the com­pa­ny’s expe­ri­ence in olive farm­ing in gen­eral.

While they pri­mar­ily pro­duce olive oils and olive oil pearls (or caviar), the vision of the com­pany is to turn tra­di­tion into inno­va­tion by devel­op­ing a greater under­stand­ing of the olive tree as a whole and the sec­tor processes involved in pro­duc­tion. The com­pany explores byprod­ucts of the tra­di­tional olive oil extrac­tion process, includ­ing its skins, pits and more.

In par­tic­u­lar, olive seeds caught the eye of Grupo Elayo researchers, as they con­tain high con­cen­tra­tions of polyphe­nols and antiox­i­dants, with an addi­tion­ally high level of qual­ity dietary fiber.

In order to access the seeds within the pits (and its sought after bioac­tive com­po­nents), the seeds undergo a rig­or­ous clean­ing and sort­ing process, which is facil­i­tated by a part­ner­ing com­pany called Buhler Sortex. This com­pany offers opti­cal sort­ing solu­tions, which are nec­es­sary to sort seeds from pits and its frag­ments on a large scale, as the color dif­fer­ence between the two is invis­i­ble to the naked eye.

Firstly, the pits are bro­ken and con­veyed to a sort­ing machine. Then an InGaAs (Indium Gallium Arsenide) cam­era uses a Short-Wavelength Infrared Range (SWIR) to detect the color dif­fer­ences between seeds, pits and frag­ments.

Only 25 tons of olives are needed to extract 1,250 kg of seeds, with less than one per­cent get­ting lost in the process, mak­ing it a highly viable and pro­duc­tive alter­na­tive to dis­card­ing olive pits as waste.

According to Stoffel, Grupo Elayo’s pri­mary prod­uct con­cern is the olive seed, from which olive seed flour and olive seed oil are obtained after a press­ing process.

The seed itself can be con­sumed as a top­ping for both sweet and savory baked goods, used in bread dough and even toasted and caramelized to cre­ate an unusual and healthy ice cream or choco­late top­ping.

The flour can used in place of nor­mal flour or as a health­ier bread­ing for meats and pota­toes or top­ping for sal­ads, and the seed oil can be used as an even health­ier alter­na­tive to con­ven­tional olive oil, and as an ingre­di­ent in soaps, creams and more, he said.

“Corazón de Oliva oil (olive oil heart) is an oil rich in oleic acid and linoleic acid, which stands out for its high con­tent of bioac­tive com­pounds,” the com­pa­ny’s web­site claims, “among which are phe­no­lic com­pounds and squa­lene which have been shown to have ben­e­fi­cial effects on health, pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of dif­fer­ent dis­eases.”



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