Italy Set to Invest €100M for Olive Mill Upgrades

Starting in 2026, funds will be dispersed to millers across the country to upgrade equipment and technologies.

(Photos: Lucia Mangialasche)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Aug. 14, 2023 16:37 UTC
(Photos: Lucia Mangialasche)

Across Italy, olive mills are set to receive invest­ment for sig­nif­i­cant upgrades. After com­plet­ing a qual­i­fy­ing process that began this sum­mer, pro­duc­ers across the coun­try will start receiv­ing the funds in May 2026.

To pro­duce qual­ity, you need to research and invest and, as a milling com­pany, be part of the change in your ter­ri­tory.- Lucia Mangialasche, co-owner, Frantoio Il Nocciolino

Successful milling oper­a­tions do not only depend on new tech­nolo­gies applied to the milling process, they need to be part of a cul­tural approach which puts qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity at its core,” Lucia Mangialasche, co-owner of Frantoio Il Nocciolino in the cen­tral Italian region of Umbria, told Olive Oil Times.

To pro­duce qual­ity, you need to research and invest and, as a milling com­pany, be part of the change in your ter­ri­tory,” she added.

Il Nocciolino is a fairly new olive milling com­pany. Its cre­ative approach to inno­va­tion is part of a broader tran­si­tion of many Umbrian olive oil pro­duc­ers, includ­ing small ones.

See Also:How Olives are Processed into Oil

One of their cus­tomers, Cultura Viva, won its sec­ond-con­sec­u­tive Gold Award at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The €100 mil­lion of pub­lic fund­ing pro­vided by the Italian Recovery and Resilience Plan for milling inno­va­tion comes from the broader €750 bil­lion European Union ini­tia­tive known as Next Generation E.U.”

In Umbria, €3.7 mil­lion will be used to sus­tain milling inno­va­tion. Meanwhile, €8.3 mil­lion will be invested in neigh­bor­ing Tuscany, a region renowned for its high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils.

About half of those funds will reach com­pa­nies in south­ern Italy, where most of the country’s olive oil pro­duc­tion occurs. In Puglia, millers will share €27 mil­lion, with their Calabrian and Sicilian coun­ter­parts receiv­ing €16.5 mil­lion and €13 mil­lion, respec­tively.

Still, upgrad­ing olive oil mill tech­nolo­gies means more than deploy­ing new extrac­tion processes.

As grad­u­ated agrar­ian experts, we focused on inno­va­tion from the start of oper­a­tions in 2011. Our vision was not always fully sup­ported by local farm­ers,” Mangialasche said.

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in regions such as Umbria comes from a long tra­di­tion and is part of the local iden­tity.

In the begin­ning, many small pro­duc­ers, often aim­ing to pro­duce olive oil for self-con­sump­tion, did not share our enthu­si­asm for the new fron­tier of mak­ing olive oil,” Mangialasche said.


In a bid to improve productivity and sustainability, Italy is investing €100 million in the country’s olive mills.

They even protested against it, as they were used to olives processed at higher tem­per­a­tures with tra­di­tional crush­ing means; they were used to a plain olive oil which was always the same across the years, devoid of any strong fla­vor,” she added.

Intense taste, the bit­ter and the piquant notes, were seen by some pro­duc­ers as intru­sive; they were not under­stood at first,” Mangialasche con­tin­ued.

While most millers have aban­doned stone grinders and old-fash­ioned presses in the last few decades, the new funds aim to install state-of-the-art tech­nolo­gies to boost prod­uct qual­ity and a cir­cu­lar econ­omy.

Public fund­ing will sus­tain 40 to 50 per­cent of the invest­ment needed to upgrade older machin­ery.


Current crush­ing equip­ment is expected to be replaced with rotary disks and blade crush­ing equip­ment to enhance the pro­cess­ing speed and the product’s final qual­ity.

Advanced knead­ers capa­ble of min­i­miz­ing the pres­ence of oxy­gen in the process and keep­ing tem­per­a­tures down will be funded. This equip­ment reduces oxi­da­tion while max­i­miz­ing the amount of antiox­i­dants in the final prod­uct.

Other fund­ing will go to installing decanters capa­ble of sep­a­rat­ing the dif­fer­ent parts of the fruits in a sin­gle process. This is a cru­cial step for enhanc­ing extra vir­gin olive oils phe­no­lic con­tent and enabling the cor­rect man­age­ment of pro­duc­tion byprod­ucts.

While pro­mot­ing the two-phase mills, funds will also go to the most mod­ern ver­sions of the three-phase milling processes.


State-of-the-art technology reduces oxidation and keeps temperatures low to preserve extra virgin olive oil’s phenolic compounds.

Three phases were the default 10 years ago, but it requires adding warm water to the process, which neg­a­tively impacts extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity,” Mangialasche said. Warm water washes away those phe­nols and antiox­i­dants which are the sources of piquant and bit­ter­ness, which is why many are used to plain olive oils.”

That process also pro­duces pomace and waste water which require fur­ther pro­cess­ing and might impact the envi­ron­ment,” she added.

Mangialasche noted how mod­ern two-phase extrac­tors can reduce waste to zero. In processes where no warm water is added, extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity is enhanced, and bio-digesters trans­form the remains into mate­r­ial for energy pro­duc­tion, cos­met­ics, ani­mal feed and more.

One of the cus­tom addi­tions they intro­duced in their mill, such as the ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy, has attracted our atten­tion and became one of the rea­sons we chose to work with them,” Stefano Zenezini, co-owner of Cultura Viva, told Olive Oil Times in a June inter­view.


Il Nocciolino’s ultrasound generator reduces the amount of time required for the kneading process.

Il Nocciolino deployed the tech­nol­ogy – tested by researchers from the University of Perugia – in 2017, a first for extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion, accord­ing to Mangialasche.

That ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy uses micro­scopic and mechanic action to instantly do what a tra­di­tional knead­ing process might take dozens of min­utes to fin­ish,” Mangialasche said.

A tra­di­tional kneader is a tank whose blades slowly stir the olive paste at a set tem­per­a­ture. The process breaks up the water-oil emul­sions cre­ated by crush­ing the olives. This gen­er­ates more sig­nif­i­cant drops of olive oil sep­a­rate from the water and fruit.

When the ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy we imple­mented is used, knead­ers mostly serve as a means to pass the paste to the decanter,” Mangialasche said.

By sig­nif­i­cantly reduc­ing oper­at­ing times and tem­per­a­tures and min­i­miz­ing the con­tact of the olive paste with oxy­gen, mills using ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy are believed to sig­nif­i­cantly enhance extra vir­gin olive oil’s healthy com­po­nents and fla­vors.

Ultrasound tech­nol­ogy, like the other parts of the milling process, rep­re­sents an option avail­able to cus­tomers, depend­ing on their needs and spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Ultrasound might greatly help to mill early har­vested olives, as it helps to increase the final yield. The ultra­sound appa­ra­tus might even be turned off with fully ripened olives,” Mangialasche said.

Traditional knead­ing is there­fore still an option, as adapt­ing to dif­fer­ent goals, dif­fer­ent olives and cus­tomers, all of that is rel­e­vant in the search for milling qual­ity,” she added.

While tech­nol­ogy is cru­cial, extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity also depends on the olive har­vest­ing pro­ce­dures and the cor­rect pro­cess­ing times.


Along with upgrading technology, logistics is a cruciual part of the milling process.

The quicker, the bet­ter. As we work for third par­ties, we care­fully plan our sched­ule to ensure our cus­tomers quick, swift oper­a­tions,” Mangialasche said. Proper sched­ul­ing is prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant step that results in a qual­ity prod­uct in a cut­ting-edge mill plant. You have to accom­mo­date large quan­ti­ties as well as smaller ones.”

Volumes vary, depend­ing on the sea­son, how fruit­ful it was, or by the cus­tomers, whether they intend to process each dif­fer­ent cul­ti­var’s fruits in sin­gu­lar batches, which also means dif­fer­ent pro­cess­ing times, dif­fer­ent set­tings and so forth,” she added.

A cir­cu­lar econ­omy approach that aims to reuse waste and the deploy­ment of greener energy sources for the olive oil mills is at the core of the new pub­lic fund­ing round.

Olive oil is an Italian flag­ship pro­duc­tion that must be defended and sup­ported at all lev­els. Innovation in olive oil is cru­cial to the fur­ther enhance­ment of prod­uct qual­ity and to the reduc­tion of the envi­ron­men­tal impact,” said Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida while announc­ing the fund­ing.

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