Producers Behind San Giuliano Pursue Quality Through Innovation

On Sardinia, Pasquale and Domenico Manca produce organic extra virgin olive oils sustainably using state-of-the-art technology.

San Giuliano’s super-high-density olive groves
Mar. 23, 2022
By Ylenia Granitto
San Giuliano’s super-high-density olive groves

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It all began in 1916 when Domenico Manca and his son, Pasquale, estab­lished an olive press in the his­toric cen­ter of Alghero, where they also man­aged an olive grove.

Fast for­ward 106 years and San Giuliano has become an ambas­sador of high-qual­ity Italian pro­duc­tion to the world, with a long his­tory of suc­cess with five extra vir­gin olive oils awarded at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

We are con­stantly evolv­ing. I can say that we are mod­ern farm­ers based on solid roots, and yet strongly ori­ented to all the tools pro­vided today by the world of research and tech­nol­ogy.- Domenico Manca, owner, San Giuliano

Our fam­ily has been cul­ti­vat­ing olives in this coun­try­side since the late 1800s,” said Pasquale Manca, who, along with his father, Domenico, share their respec­tive grandfather’s names and ded­i­ca­tion to the land.

Originally, some parcels were ded­i­cated to pro­duc­ing wheat and milk, but, over the years, they spe­cial­ized in olive farm­ing, which has become the com­pa­ny’s core mis­sion,” he added.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Nestled in the north­west­ern cor­ner of Sardinia, the sec­ond-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, the farm has a state-of-the-art mill at its heart, equipped with four milling lines. It cov­ers more than 400 hectares of groves between Alghero and Sassari. With 180,000 olive trees already, the fam­ily plans to con­tinue expand­ing pro­duc­tion.

Looking back over the pro­duc­ers’ his­tory, they were already thriv­ing when World War II began and their facil­i­ties were hit by heavy bomb­ing. Even though the dread­ful event led to a stand­still in their farm­ing activ­i­ties, it did not stop the fam­i­ly’s enter­pris­ing spirit.

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My father returned to San Giuliano, where the farm is located, in the early 1970s,” Manca said. Not only did he restore the com­pany, but he started a true rev­o­lu­tion, set­ting up the first con­tin­u­ous cycle oil mill of the region.”

At that time, the new tech­nol­ogy drew much atten­tion, gen­er­at­ing curios­ity and dif­fi­dence. The oils pro­duced with the cold-press sys­tem were more intense, unlike those pre­vi­ously obtained with the tra­di­tional method.

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San Giuliano’s traditional olive groves

Now we crush our olives exclu­sively, but we have been work­ing with third par­ties for some time,” Manca said. The new mill pro­duced more aro­matic and pun­gent oils, which rep­re­sented such a change from the past that at first sev­eral farm­ers showed a cer­tain reluc­tance.”

Still, the project was imme­di­ately char­ac­ter­ized by effi­ciency and account­abil­ity, which helped the grow­ers to over­come their ini­tial hes­i­tancy and trust the ground­break­ing intu­ition.

The rest, in terms of devel­op­ment of pro­duc­tion tech­nol­ogy, is his­tory,” Manca said.

Innovation and research have always been the focus of the com­pany.

We work in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the University of Sassari,” Manca said. We con­stantly keep our­selves up to date. For exam­ple, three years ago, we installed new machin­ery, which the man­u­fac­turer designed accord­ing to our needs, pro­vid­ing us with a unique set-up in its cat­e­gory.”

Ultrasound is the last inno­va­tion applied to the cut­ting-edge milling plant. No detail is left to chance at San Giuliano.

I like say­ing that we strive to give our best in terms of tech­nol­ogy, but also from an aes­thetic point of view,” Manca said. We want those who enter our mill to find a clean-cut and wel­com­ing envi­ron­ment.”

When the right time comes, fruits are har­vested and car­ried to the facil­ity in small bins.

Also trans­port, stor­age and han­dling of the olives are sub­ject to series of small but fun­da­men­tal steps that con­tribute to the qual­ity of our pro­duc­tions,” he said. All of this cer­tainly does require an extra por­tion of care in the work.”

Stretching from the sea to the inner­most areas, San Giuliano’s olive groves are made up of both native and inter­na­tional cul­ti­vars such as Bosana, Semidana, Nera di Oliena, Coratina, Arbequina and Arbosana.

The ter­ri­to­r­ial vari­ety of the farm cer­tainly requires a great deal of work from both an agro­nomic and an entre­pre­neur­ial point of view,” Manca said. Yet all these olive groves, often located far from each other, with dif­fer­ent expo­sures to wind and sun, pro­vide a wealth of organolep­tic pro­files with their wide diver­sity and rich­ness of aro­mas.”

We think that a state-of-the-art com­pany should com­pre­hend dif­fer­ent man­age­ment mod­els of the olive grove,” he added.

Manca also said they adopted three dif­fer­ent plant­ing sys­tems: tra­di­tional, high-den­sity (inten­sive) and super-high-den­sity (super-inten­sive).

Now, after a slight delay due to the Covid-19 pan­demic, we are work­ing on a fur­ther part of the land at high-den­sity,” Manca said. It is a fourth pat­tern that we are exper­i­ment­ing with a group of researchers.”

The idea is to enhance the pro­duc­tion to meet dif­fer­ent tastes and demands. With this aim, another 100 hectares will be added to the prop­erty, com­pris­ing more than 200,000 trees.

Over the years, sev­eral parcels have been added to an orig­i­nal nucleus of his­toric olive groves.

europe-profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-producers-behind-san-giuliano-pursue-quality-through-innovation-olive-oil-times

Harvesting olives in San Giuliano’s super-high-debsity olive groves

We have kept all the cen­turies-old olive trees and their tra­di­tional pat­terns,” Manca said. It is worth say­ing that the tra­di­tion of sheep and goat farm­ing goes back thou­sands of years in Sardinia.”

In the flat­lands of La Nurra, which extends for dozen of hectares, many farm­ers dis­missed their plots over the last few years,” he added. Then we acquired some of these lands, which had always been used only for graz­ing, and we planted new and more ratio­nal­ized olive groves. We also car­ried out improve­ments in this area, includ­ing cre­at­ing a drainage sys­tem.”

The whole prop­erty is organic and man­aged with a focus on the respon­si­ble use of resources.

We uti­lized all the olive pro­cess­ing residues,” Manca said. Pits are used for heat­ing the facil­i­ties, pomace pro­vides energy in the form of bio­mass and a part of it which is very rich in polyphe­nols is saved for the cos­metic sec­tor. In the con­text of by-prod­ucts, another new project sur­round­ing nutri­tion is in the pipeline.”

Water use is lim­ited both in the two-phase mill and in the field.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Italy

We adopt Agriculture 4.0 tech­nolo­gies,” Manca said. We are care­ful not to waste water and rely on an almost sur­gi­cal drip sys­tem.”

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the regional agency for agri­cul­tural research, they are also set­ting up sen­sors on the plants to detect if and when they need water. Still, in terms of sus­tain­abil­ity, an exper­i­men­tal project has been sched­uled to set up an agro-pho­to­voltaic sys­tem in a small por­tion of the prop­erty.

We are con­stantly evolv­ing,” Manca said. I can say that we are mod­ern farm­ers based on solid roots, and yet strongly ori­ented to all the tools pro­vided today by the world of research and tech­nol­ogy that must be used to be on the mar­ket at 360 degrees.”

I would say that, in order not to be mar­ginal and com­pet­i­tive, you must use all the solu­tions that the research in this sec­tor offers,” he added.

Over the last decades, in the Alghero area, there has been a growth in pro­fes­sional olive grow­ing,” Manca con­tin­ued. There are some farm­ers like us who are doing an excel­lent job. We do not want to work only for our own busi­ness, we indeed employ many peo­ple and trans­fer our knowl­edge to them, and this aspect of a shared ben­e­fit is very impor­tant to us.”

Together with our staff, we con­duct or take part in many oper­a­tions such as plant­ing new groves, and even if it costs us more and requires a greater effort, it is worth it because it allows us to cre­ate and share a rich knowl­edge her­itage,” he con­cluded.


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