Innovation and Sustainability Yield Brilliant Results for Apulian Producers

Teamwork, the responsible use of resources and innovation underpin the success of the Apulian Coratina monovarietal.
Luigi, Michele and Vito Girone focus their efforts on producing Coratina monovarietal extra virgin olive oil. (Photo: GangaLupo)
By Ylenia Granitto
May. 14, 2024 14:43 UTC

The abil­ity to bring out the best of the autochtho­nous Coratina olive vari­ety lies at the heart of GangaLupos suc­cess.

The young com­pany was founded in Bari, Puglia, aim­ing to pro­duce a top-qual­ity mono­va­ri­etal. Its efforts were again rewarded with a Gold Award at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the company’s sixth con­sec­u­tive dis­tinc­tion.

There is a greater aware­ness that a qual­ity prod­uct is not just a com­mod­ity, but the fruit of a work of care, atten­tion and respect for ter­ri­tory and com­mu­ni­ties.- Vito Girone, founder, GangaLupo

Many of the trees that we care for were planted by my great-grand­fa­ther and grand­fa­ther,” said founder Vito Girone. Indeed, our com­pany was recently cre­ated, but my fam­ily has been ded­i­cated to olive grow­ing for gen­er­a­tions.”

They used to sell the olives to the local mills, and a small part of the fruit was intended for the pro­duc­tion of olive oil for domes­tic con­sump­tion,” he added. The farm man­age­ment, which also pro­duces veg­eta­bles, has then been passed to our par­ents, who sup­port me and my brother in our qual­ity-ori­ented project.”

See Also:Producer Profiles

Until shortly before the company’s cre­ation, the Apulian farmer’s career had taken a dif­fer­ent path.

After high school, Girone moved to Turin, in the north­ern Italian region of Piedmont. There, he grad­u­ated and started work­ing in an engi­neer­ing firm. This lasted for a few years until an inner voice prompted him to move back.

It was a very good job, but over time, I have real­ized that I needed a change, espe­cially since my pas­sion for olive oil made itself felt,” he said. Therefore, I pro­posed to my brother Luigi, who had grad­u­ated in forestry and envi­ron­men­tal sci­ences and already worked in the fam­ily busi­ness, to launch our own pro­duc­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil.”

He eagerly accepted, and we began rear­rang­ing the com­pany orga­ni­za­tion,” Girone added. Since we had just basic knowl­edge of how to make olive oil, we turned to an exter­nal con­sul­tant, Alfredo Marasciulo, an expert in qual­ity pro­duc­tion. Seeing our strong belief in the project, he agreed to sup­port us, and we started in the 2017/18 crop year.”

Today, the farm cov­ers 25 hectares in Santo Spirito, the north­ern­most dis­trict of the Apulian cap­i­tal city. There, 5,500 olive trees flour­ish on flat land less than a kilo­me­ter from the Adriatic Sea.

The orchards are located in a ham­let called Ganga di Lupo, from which the company’s name derives. Over half of the trees are cen­turies old and still retain a tra­di­tional plant­ing pat­tern, with a spac­ing of at least six by seven meters. Younger trees have been placed in some areas to thicken the orchards.

In the olive grove, we installed two weather con­trol units that detect air and soil humid­ity,” Girone said. We also added leaf sen­sors that allow us to mon­i­tor the growth of the leaves and avoid ther­mal and water stress in the plants.”

This Agriculture 4.0 sys­tem helps to opti­mize resources and work­loads. Girone and his brother plan to install a sub­sur­face irri­ga­tion sys­tem to save water and energy, replac­ing the drip sys­tem in the orchards.

Being sus­tain­able is one of our core val­ues, and there­fore, we pay strict atten­tion to the effi­cient use of resources,” Girone said. Studies say that with drip irri­ga­tion, the water lost to evap­o­ra­tion can reach 40 to 50 per­cent.”

This does not hap­pen with sub­sur­face irri­ga­tion, which low­ers water con­sump­tion and, con­se­quently, energy con­sump­tion since the booster pumps have to pump less water for less time from the well,” he added. By the next olive har­vest, this sys­tem should come into oper­a­tion in some orchards.”

Girone believes that his com­pany and the olive oil sec­tor can no longer afford to con­tinue using unsus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices.

To make a qual­ity prod­uct, you need water, but cli­mate change has reduced its avail­abil­ity,” he said. With less rain and declin­ing aquifer lev­els, farm­ers must be care­ful about water con­sump­tion and man­age­ment. Otherwise, there is a risk that this pre­cious resource will no longer be avail­able for agri­cul­ture.”


Drought threat­ened last year’s pro­duc­tion. A rainy spring was fol­lowed by a pro­longed dry spell from June to November, requir­ing a higher water and energy input.

Nevertheless, the extra efforts paid off, and the olive yield was sat­is­fac­tory. Coratina is a late-matur­ing vari­ety, but Girone car­ries out an early har­vest, which usu­ally starts in the first days of November and ends by mid-December.

To achieve such results, we rely on one of the best mills in the area,” Girone said. In his facil­ity in Modugno, Donato Conserva, also known as Mimì, pro­vides us with the best tech­nol­ogy avail­able today. There is a plan to build our own com­pany mill, per­haps in a cou­ple of years, but we will take one step at a time for now and con­tinue to work with these great pro­fes­sion­als.”


GangaLupo’s strengths arise from the complementary skill sets possessed by each family member and their collaborators. (Photo: GangaLupo)

Girone attrib­utes the company’s suc­cess to the com­ple­men­tary skill sets he, his brother and his par­ents pos­sess.

In cre­at­ing our com­pany, I com­bined all of our exper­tise, namely my par­ents’ life­time expe­ri­ence in the coun­try, my brother’s agri­cul­tural knowl­edge and my engi­neer­ing skills, espe­cially in imple­ment­ing a pre­ci­sion farm­ing model, in addi­tion to the abil­i­ties of our col­lab­o­ra­tors,” he said. Working in a team can be a win­ning choice even for a small com­pany.”

Girone attrib­uted this busi­ness strat­egy to the award-win­ning results the com­pany has achieved over the years.

The awards obtained give us the great­est sat­is­fac­tion,” he said. They not only indi­cate that we are doing a good job but also give pres­tige to our image. And we suc­ceeded in this despite the dif­fi­cul­ties that all farm­ers like us have encoun­tered in recent years, from the ever-more-fre­quent extreme weather events to the increased pro­duc­tion costs.”

Girone revealed that at the begin­ning of the sales sea­son, he was wor­ried that ris­ing olive oil prices might scare the con­sumers. However, he real­ized that a good part of them truly under­stood the value of pre­mium prod­ucts and con­tin­ued to buy and use them despite the cost increases.

The fact is that the prices of sub­stan­dard prod­ucts have also gone up,” he said. In sub­stance, the dif­fer­ence between the prices of high-qual­ity and poor-qual­ity prod­ucts has nar­rowed a lot, and con­sumers began to under­stand that, under these con­di­tions, it is worth buy­ing a high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Girone noted that the great com­mu­ni­ca­tion from olive oil pro­fes­sion­als also made peo­ple aware of what lies behind qual­ity pro­duc­tion and its many ben­e­fits.

Ever more con­sumers know that a high-qual­ity prod­uct makes a world of dif­fer­ence both at the table and in terms of the health ben­e­fits,” he said. We see a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple dis­cov­er­ing this qual­ity world.”

There is a greater aware­ness than in the past that a qual­ity prod­uct is not just a com­mod­ity, but the fruit of a work of care, atten­tion and respect for ter­ri­tory and com­mu­ni­ties,” Girone added. Indeed, this is prob­a­bly a key moment for the sec­tor, in which we can make a large num­ber of peo­ple aware of the dif­fer­ences between a high-qual­ity prod­uct and a low-qual­ity one.”

The Apulian farmer said he could not imag­ine a life dif­fer­ent from the one he is liv­ing thanks to extra vir­gin olive oil. He added that he is com­mit­ted to improv­ing and exploit­ing today’s inno­va­tions to improve qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

I believe that in our work, there are fun­da­men­tal points that we must keep in sight, and one of these is respect for the envi­ron­ment,” Girone said. Certainly, today’s inno­va­tions help us reach the high­est lev­els of qual­ity and be more pro­duc­tive, but I believe that we should not overdo it. We must always treat the envi­ron­ment and the ter­ri­tory that gives us this extra­or­di­nary prod­uct with great care.”

Through the reduc­tion of emis­sions and effi­cient resource use, we can be a sus­tain­able com­pany in every sense and still aim for the high­est qual­ity stan­dards,” he con­cluded.


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