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Olive co-op pressing ahead, plans for a second grove

Tuesday, 6th May, 2008

Broken Hill Gourmet Products has invested in a new olive press as it looks to increase production and develop markets outside the city.

Chairman, Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown, said yesterday that the $35,000 Italian-made machine had the capacity to press up to 100kg of olives an hour.

The purchase means the group will be able to save on costs as future harvests will not have to be sent to Adelaide for pressing.

"We are delighted with it," Dr Flecknoe-Brown said of the Compagnolo press.

"It's well made and we think it'll do a good job for the purpose." Since arriving a few months ago, members of the group, using fruit from recent harvests, have conducted a "few trial runs".

"You have to learn what settings to put it on," Dr Flecknoe-Brown said.

The co-operative has access to about 500 olive trees scattered around the city as well as its own 700-tree grove near the South overpass.

There are plans to grow the business further. Dr Flecknoe-Brown said the group was looking for more land to establish a second permanent grove and, further down the track, build a bottling line.

While there were a "couple of choices", he said the most favorable site for another grove was an area on the Willyama common, near the south treatment plant.

Having access to a reliable supply of water was a vital ingredient to the co-operative's expansion plans.

"We estimate the amount of surplus effluent would support between 10,000 and 20,000 plants," said Dr Flecknoe-Brown, who added the next step was to put a proposal to City Council and Country Water.

The harvest from the group's grove near the South overpass is also expected to double each year. By 2012, the yield is expected to reach 10 tonnes.

By then a larger press would likely be needed but Dr Flecknoe-Brown said the co-operative was also conscious of making sure the business didn't expand too quickly.

"When you plan marketing, you've got to achieve sustainable supply."

Dr Flecknoe-Brown said there were now 12 people involved with BH Gourmet Products at various levels of investment.

He said bringing in the extra investors meant the group did not have to go into debt to pay for the press, which was at a member's place for the time being.

"It's set up in a shed because we're planning a purpose built facility down the track."

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