The Olive Farm that Breathed New Life into Cyprus’s No Man’s Land

Atsas started as a farm ion deteriorated land in the island’s buffer zone, and evolved into a leading olive oil producer in less than a decade.
Photo: Atsas Organic Products
Jun. 6, 2022
Costas Vasilopoulos

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In the small vil­lage of Evrychou on the island of Cyprus, Atsas Organic Products is the result of the insa­tiable desire of George David to cre­ate an olive farm.

David started the fam­ily-owned com­pany from scratch back in 2012 by pur­chas­ing agri­cul­tural land in Cyprus’s buffer zone, also called the Green Line’ or the Dead Zone,’ the nar­row bor­der strip which acts as a buffer between the Greek-Cypriot and the Turkish-Cypriot com­mu­ni­ties of the island.

Our organic olive groves are the proof that what started as a response to the acute nos­tal­gia for the past became an indus­try pio­neer… We are very opti­mistic about the future.- Nicholas Savvides, com­mer­cial man­ager, Atsas Organic Products

By inter­na­tional stan­dards, Cyprus is a small olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation with an annual yield of 2,500 to 3,000 tons of olive oil. However, the com­pany set the bar high from the out­set, being pas­sion­ate about pro­duc­ing a dis­tinc­tive olive oil to set it apart from the com­pe­ti­tion.

When we decided to enter the world of olive oil pro­duc­tion, we didn’t want to cre­ate merely another extra vir­gin olive oil of high qual­ity,” Nicholas Savvides, the com­pa­ny’s com­mer­cial man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. We wanted to cre­ate a pre­mium, high-phe­no­lic extra vir­gin olive oil to make a dif­fer­ence in the indus­try.”

See Also:Producer Profiles

The con­di­tions were ideal for the ven­ture the com­pany took on; due to being in the buffer zone, very close to the vil­lage of Petra, where David comes from, the acquired land had been left uncul­ti­vated for more than 45 years. It pro­vided the per­fect ground to grow olive trees.

Our land lies inside the dead zone in the Solea Valley,” Savvides said. The soil was vir­tu­ally vir­gin and free of any biotic and abi­otic fac­tors. Our grove grad­u­ally evolved into an eco-friendly farm that became a par­a­digm and a learn­ing cen­ter for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.”

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After a lot of exper­i­men­ta­tion and focused research, the com­pany achieved its ulti­mate pur­pose of pro­duc­ing a high-polyphe­nol extra vir­gin olive oil.

In 2017, our olive oil was found to be the rich­est in polyphe­nol com­pounds among 7,854 olive oils from 15 coun­tries and holds the record until today,” Savvides proudly said. This was the great­est reward and a boost to con­tinue our work.”

Over the years, Atsas Organic Products has become one of Cyprus’s lead­ing olive oil pro­duc­ers and has enjoyed a rep­u­ta­tion for its organic olive oil.

A wide range of high-polyphe­nol mono­va­ri­etals and blends are pro­duced at Atsas farm. The com­pany has also mar­keted its olive oil as a nat­ural food sup­ple­ment avail­able in bot­tles of 10 mil­li­liters.

Olive oil is a sta­ple food, part of our cul­ture and tra­di­tion and one of our most beloved and famil­iar fla­vors,” Savvides said. It helps reg­u­late blood sugar lev­els and pro­tects against heart dis­ease and can­cer.”

According to E.U. reg­u­la­tion 432/2012, the daily con­sump­tion of 20 grams of high-phe­no­lic olive oil can pro­tect the human body from oxida­tive stress,” he added.

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Atsas Organic Products

Atsas farm is vir­tu­ally an all-inclu­sive estab­lish­ment focused on olive oil pro­duc­tion, fea­tur­ing 30 hectares of olive groves, a mod­ern mill and a bot­tling and pack­ag­ing facil­ity.

In our irri­gated olive groves, we grow 6,500 olive trees of var­i­ous cul­ti­vars, includ­ing Koroneiki, Kalamon and Kypriaki,” Savvides said. We have also come to an agree­ment with other pro­duc­ers in the area to nur­ture their olive trees.”

Atsas Organic Products has also made great strides in adopt­ing regen­er­a­tive and sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture tech­niques.

All oper­a­tions in the olive groves, includ­ing har­vest­ing the olives and prun­ing the trees, are per­formed using man­u­ally-oper­ated tools or small-scale mechan­i­cal equip­ment to min­i­mize the impact on the trees from using fully-mech­a­nized har­vest­ing meth­ods and heavy machin­ery.

In addi­tion, the water­ing of the trees is achieved by col­lect­ing rain­wa­ter in an arti­fi­cial lake on the farm to pre­serve the nat­ural under­ground water reserves.

Special care has also been taken towards pre­serv­ing the bio­di­ver­sity on Atsas farm.

Apart from olive trees, sev­eral other types of trees, includ­ing pome­gran­ate and fig trees and even cac­tus trees, flour­ish, pro­mot­ing bio­di­ver­sity and pro­vid­ing food to local fauna.

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Atsas Organic Products

Bird nests have also been installed on the farm to pro­vide shel­ter to native bird species.

We also avoid remov­ing the clus­ters of indige­nous plants that grow on our farm,” Savvides said. They pro­vide habi­tat to use­ful insects and microor­gan­isms that help con­trol pests and fun­gus.”

In advance, we don’t com­pletely erad­i­cate weeds, but we pre­fer to trim them off, leav­ing plant mate­r­ial on the soil to ini­ti­ate green com­post­ing pro­ce­dures,” he added. We also grow plants such as vetch and lucerne along the olive tree lines in our farm to enrich the soil with nutri­ents.”

Disseminating the knowl­edge obtained in agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment and the cul­ti­va­tion of the olive tree is another area Atsas Organic Products has set foot in, estab­lish­ing a train­ing cen­ter in the vil­lage of Katydata open to every­body look­ing to delve into the world of agri­cul­ture.

The train­ing cen­ter real­izes our vision to fos­ter agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment and edu­cate our fel­low cit­i­zens through sem­i­nars and other edu­ca­tional pro­grams,” Savvides said. We also want to encour­age them to get involved in agri­cul­ture and pro­mote the pro­duc­tion of sta­ple foods of the Cypriot cui­sine.”

The pro­ducer rep­re­sented Cyprus in the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, earn­ing a Silver Award for the Atsas Silver Edition blend made from Kalamon and Koroneiki olives.

In the pre­vi­ous edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion, the com­pany earned a Gold Award for its sil­ver edi­tion line of organic extra vir­gin olive oils.

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Atsas Organic Products

It is a great honor to win at the pres­ti­gious NYIOOC, and every award we receive is the tan­gi­ble proof that the hard and method­i­cal work of our team has paid off,” Savvides said. It is extremely impor­tant for Cyprus to be on the global olive oil map.”

The com­pany is any­thing but con­tent with its suc­cess so far, look­ing to set new goals for the near future and fur­ther cement its foun­da­tions.

Our short-term objec­tive is to increase our capac­ity of olive oil pro­duc­tion and extend our prod­ucts port­fo­lio to organic table olives and olive paste,” Savvides said.

We also intend to increase our exports to Europe, Asia and the U.S.,” he added. However, pro­duc­ing an exquis­ite olive oil rich in polyphe­nols to top the com­pe­ti­tion is a chal­lenge to us year in, year out.”

An ardu­ous jour­ney may lie ahead for Atsas Organic Products, Savvides finally noted, with cli­mate change pos­ing the most sig­nif­i­cant threat by impact­ing the phe­no­lic stages of olive trees and shift­ing their growth cycle through­out the sea­son.

Nevertheless, the company’s extra vir­gin olive oil could be the best guar­an­tee of an aus­pi­cious future in olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Our organic olive groves are the proof that what started as a response to the acute nos­tal­gia for the past became an indus­try pio­neer,” Savvides said.

We are very opti­mistic about the future since the high-phe­no­lic olive oil cat­e­gory exhibits great poten­tial,” he con­cluded. Consumers every­where tend to opt for more healthy food prod­ucts, and extra vir­gin olive oil is quin­tes­sen­tial healthy eat­ing.”


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