Many farmers think that by increasing the number of production factors used they are able to proportionally increase the production and profitability of their farm. But the reality is that the use of more production factors than necessary in most cases only reduces the profit of the farm and increases the risk of contamination of the environment and the food produced.

Integrated production is an agricultural production system that uses natural regulatory mechanisms, taking into account environmental protection, farm economy and social requirements, in accordance with the requirements established for each product in the corresponding production regulations.

In general terms, it is an agricultural production system that optimizes the use of the productive environment and uses natural regulatory mechanisms to control pests and diseases, taking into account three key issues. One, environmental protection. Two, the economics of the farm; and finally, society’s demands for increasingly healthier and safer food.

What are the rules of integrated production?

The rules of integrated production have the direction and supervision of an agronomist trained in integrated production, which must be complied with by farmers integrated in farmers’ associations (API), which is embodied in the concept of good agricultural practices.

This concept is based on the following issues.

  • soil conservation
  • optimization of water use
  • optimization of solar energy use
  • biodiversity conservation
  • rationalization of fertilizer use
  • rationalization of the use of phytosanitary products
  • reduction of pollution of agricultural origin

By following these codes of Good Agricultural Practices, agricultural activity is much healthier and less environmentally damaging, without underestimating the significant savings in cultivation costs.

What are the advantages of integrated production?

The cultivation of olive groves through the application of Integrated Production techniques is an environmentally friendly model to obtain high quality products, with all the guarantees of food safety and without renouncing the productive capacity of the farm, making a rational use of natural resources, especially water, while at the same time taking care to avoid the erosion of our soils, in order to guarantee a sustainable agriculture in the long term, and to collaborate in the maintenance of a more habitable planet.

How does integrated production affect the environment?

As soon as spring awakens and with it the vegetative activity begins again in the olive trees, technical controls will warn of diseases and pests that can damage the plant and the fruit. If necessary, the specific actions to combat pests or diseases will be carried out always protecting the fauna and flora, and guaranteeing that the fruit to be obtained will be free of any type of phytosanitary residue.

How does Oleoestepa develop its integrated production?

Oleoestepa’s associated olive mills receive olives from olive trees grown exclusively under integrated or organic production techniques. The plots of land that belong to an Integrated Production Association (API) have an agronomist in charge of it, with more than 24 technicians in the cooperative. This technician is in charge of advising and controlling the different tasks required in the day-to-day cultivation of the olive grove, with each task being recorded in the farm notebook.

Oleoestepa’s 19 olive oil mills are authorized to produce integrated production extra virgin olive oil. In the oil production process itself, one of the most critical, the oil mill industry, like the olive grove operation, must meet demanding technical requirements to guarantee the success of this important phase. One of them ensures that the olives and oil will be permanently in contact exclusively with authorized food material, or the different analyses to which the olives and oils are subjected in preventive controls and quality certification.

In terms of corporate social responsibility, the integrated production system contributes to a better rural environment and oils with certified food safety.

Current olive harvesting methods have changed greatly in recent years. The incorporation of new machinery has facilitated the work of harvesting, allowing a greater quantity of fruit to be obtained in less time.

This increase in productivity not only depends on the machinery, but also on the relief of the land where the olive grove is located and the type of plantation. The following is a summary of the main current harvesting methods used to obtain the different varieties of olive oil.

The olives are harvested annually and must be harvested at the moment of optimum ripeness so that the best juice, extra virgin olive oil, can be obtained.

It is ideal to harvest early, that is, when the olives are in veraison (between green and purple). It is then, if it is not affected by pests, when it offers its best organoleptic properties, when its fruity attributes are more accentuated.

This ideal moment is also influenced by weather conditions, and harvesting can be significantly delayed by a period of rain or high temperatures, which prevent cold extraction of the olive oil, which is essential to maintain its organoleptic properties.

Once everything is ready, the harvesting activity arrives to the olive grove and can be carried out in the following way.


Traditional method for the harvesting of olives destined for table olives. They use ladders to access all parts of the olive tree and harvest the fruit manually with the help of bags hanging from the shoulder, called “macacos”. Although the olives are harvested with minimal damage, it is a slow and labor-intensive process. In a very marginal way, this tool is also used to produce extra virgin olive oil in small and family-run olive groves.


This is the traditional method of harvesting olives for olive oil, and is still the best known and most widely practiced today. On a mesh, canvas or large cloth that covers the entire surface of the olive tree, the harvesters hit the different branches with a stick or long stick, causing the olives to fall on the canvas.

In the past, these sticks were made of wood, but the invention of new materials such as fiberglass has significantly reduced their weight and, consequently, greatly facilitated this work.

Although this system is faster than the previous one, it is necessary to know how to do it because otherwise there is a risk of damaging the olive tree.

Once the olive tree has been trimmed, other harvesters collect the canvas with the olives and place them in a basket pulled by a tractor, which will take them to a larger trailer on the edge of the olive grove waiting to be filled and taken to the mill.

Mechanical harvester

The system is similar to the previous one in terms of the use of canvases or meshes on the ground covering the olive grove, with the only difference in the harvesting tool. In this case they are mechanical type harvesters in the form of a rake or comb, which thanks to its electric or gasoline engine, is introduced into the branches of the olive trees achieving easier and faster the fall of the olives on the canvas.

In addition to the greater speed, it is lighter than the stick, making the task easier for the harvester.

Mechanical trunk vibrator

This method of mechanized harvesting consists of the use of a clamp articulated by a tractor that embraces the trunk of the tree and shakes it for several seconds, causing the olives to be released from the branches.

This system is usually a complement to the mechanical shakers that make a quick review of all the branches of each olive tree, thus guaranteeing a complete harvesting of the olives.

Mechanical trunk shaker with umbrella

This system is a variation of the previous one, since an inverted canvas is incorporated to the clamp that completely surrounds the olive tree, recovering the fruit without it even touching the ground, passing to its unloading in a trailer or truck for its subsequent transfer to the oil mill.

This type of harvesting is used in plantations with no or little slope, and with single or two-foot olive trees, both traditional and intensive. The cost is lower than in completely manual harvesting and quite efficient in terms of the percentage of detachment, also achieving an optimization of fruit delivery, both in time and in freshness and blemishes.

However, the efficiency of this system is very much determined by the variety of olive grove, since not all varieties of olives detach easily. The incorporation of this machinery makes this system common in large farms or farms managed by agricultural companies.


This is the usual system in super-intensive plantations, where the olive trees are placed in continuous rows in the form of a hedge, which allows the use of automatic inverted u-shaped harvesters, capable of carrying out a complete mechanized harvest without the need for manual labor, since the olives are placed directly in trailers by means of conveyors.

It represents a very important saving in harvesting costs, but its application is limited to this type of plantations and to specific varieties.

How it is harvested in Oleoestepa

In the more than 70,000 hectares of land that make up the 19 associated olive mills, there is a forest of millions of olive trees. It is a large area with very diverse orography, availability of irrigation and size of plantations, key factors in determining the most efficient harvesting system.

However, there is a common link: the commitment to environmentally sustainable cultivation, obtaining a healthy fruit, harvesting it at the optimum moment of ripeness, at veraison, and delivering it as quickly as possible to the associated mills, where the latest technology awaits to optimally extract its juice.

The word EVOO is an acronym that comes from the abbreviation of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This expression was used only by experts in this sector, but in recent years it has become popular thanks to healthy food movements and its dissemination in social networks.

By derivation, there are other acronyms, perhaps less popular, with which the other categories are called. This is the case of VOO for Virgin Olive Oil, or simply OO for conventional olive oil.

EVOO, the irreproachable olive juice.

Now that we know what EVOO means, we are in a position to ask ourselves, what makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil different from the other categories?

Well, its quality. EVOO is a flawless olive juice, with no defects related to its flavor or aroma and which exceeds the requirements established in a physical-chemical and multi-residual analysis carried out by an accredited laboratory.

As the label states, it is extracted exclusively by mechanical means. Although its degree of acidity cannot exceed 0.8% in the case of EVOO’s protected by the Protected Designation of Origin Estepa (PDO) cannot exceed 0.3%. This parameter is directly related to the amount of free fatty acids in the oil, derived mainly from a less than optimal state of health, as occurs when the olives are chopped, have been frozen or are picked from the ground. In short, the lower the acidity, the higher the quality of the fruit and the EVOO produced.

In addition to acidity, other parameters such as peroxide index, K270 or waxes are also taken into account. What is behind this chemical nomenclature? Let’s simplify. The peroxide value expresses the amount of active oxygen in the oil, providing information on its degree of oxidation or rancidity. Although it should not exceed 20 meq/kg (milliequivalents of oxygen per kilo), the Oleoestepa AOVÉ’s that are covered by the PDO Estepa are restricted to less than 15 meg/kg.

Scientifically, the K270 index is a spectrophotometric test in the ultraviolet wavelength range that can indicate the presence in the oil of secondary oxidation compounds (other than peroxides) that have a maximum absorption at a wavelength of 270 nm. These compounds are the result of the state of conservation of the oil, of modifications suffered as a result of technological processes, contamination or adulteration.

In short, it measures the capacity to become rancid over time, so that an oil will be of higher quality when its K270 index is lower. As with the previous parameters, the PDO Estepa certification establishes a more restrictive limit in order to guarantee higher quality.

And finally, waxes, present in olive oil through leaves or dirt, high extraction temperatures and inadequate preservation, among other reasons.

Virgin olive oil or VOO

VOO is extracted in the same way as EVOO, but its acidity level is usually above 0.8%, with a maximum limit of 2%. In other words, its free fatty acid content is higher, resulting in a fruit in poorer condition.

There are cases in which the physical-chemical analysis seems to be an EVOO because it meets its requirements. However, it will be the sensory analysis that detects a defect, it will no longer be irreproachable and, consequently, it should be marketed under the denomination of virgin olive oil.

Lampante virgin olive oil or LVOO

The LVOO is the juice resulting from the olives of poorer quality. It has an acidity of more than 2% and multiple defects, which make it unfit for human consumption, hence it is sent to industrial refineries to produce other types of oils and by-products.

In the refineries, this defective juice is subjected to chemical or thermal processes that drastically reduce its acidity levels and other physicochemical parameters, but also its organic compounds and natural antioxidants. The resulting vegetable fat is the main base of the following oil that we explain below.

A curiosity: the adjective “lampante” is linked to the word “lamp”, since this oil, which is not suitable for human consumption, has been used to illuminate the rooms of homes since ancient times.

Olive oil (refined + virgin) or OO

This is the most confusing category for consumers, which we will try to clarify. AO is a blend of virgin olive oils with refined oils from the AOVL explained above. On the shelves you can find it under the generic denomination olive oil, and in some cases accompanied with the classification mild and intense, depending on the amount of EVOO contained in the blend.

Olive pomace oil or OPO

Like olive oil, this is also a mixture of OOV and refined oils, but in this case from the solid residue of the olive, called pomace. This dark mass is stored in special tanks during the campaign to extract the olive juice, and then transferred to the factories where it is processed to extract the pomace olive oil, popularly called orujeras.

It is a product suitable for human consumption and is marketed under the name Olive Pomace Oil.

We hope that this article has served to clarify some terms related to olive oil that can lead to confusion. If you want to know more about the EVOO culture, we invite you to visit other articles of our blog and to subscribe to our newsletter.