Extending the branches of regional Victoria’s olive industry

Published: 16 May 2024
Author: By Regional Development Victoria

What makes regional Victoria a prime location for olive production? We speak with Cobram Estate Olives’ Joint CEO Leandro Ravetti to find out.

Regional Victoria is home to a wide range of produce that is locally farmed and processed.

From grains to dairy, agriculture is a way of life for many and provides valuable employment across the state.

This includes olive farming and production which plays an important part in regional Victoria’s food and fibre story.

Victoria is the largest producer of olives in Australia, with projects like Cobram Estate Olives powering the market forward.

Despite being thousands of kilometres away from the Mediterranean – a key location in the international olive oil trade – Victoria also contains the right environment to produce tens of thousands of tonnes of olives each year.

More production on the cards

Exterior of the Cobram Estate factory lined with trees with a sign reading Cobram EstateAccording to Leandro Ravetti, there are three major pillars that make regional Victoria such an ideal location to produce olive oil.

'First and most importantly, Victoria has great environmental conditions and a fantastic climate for olive production,' Leandro says.

'Second is water availability for maximum productivity and third is access to great people who are passionate about the work that they do.'

Cobram Estate’s 120-strong workforce operates across sites in Lara, Boort, Boundary Bend, and Wemen to produce olive oil and other olive-related products, exporting to 17 countries across the globe.

Established in 1998, Cobram Estate remains Australia’s largest olive grower, processor and marketer listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. It also farms olive groves in the United States.

The company last year expanded its operations in Boort with an olive mill extension backed by Victorian Government support.

Cobram Estate will be able to process up to 100,000 tonnes of olives per season at the Boort mill when fully developed. This will make the Boort mill the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

'We used the old mill from 2002 to 2022,' Leandro says. 'All equipment was replaced, and it has already successfully run through 2023’s harvest season.'

To extract olive oil from olives, the new mill has energy efficient decanters that can separate the oil from the pulp of the fruit more efficiently and consume less energy. This is making Boort more productive and efficient than ever before.

Supporting local jobs

Olives on an olive treeUp to 30 jobs will be created as a result of the Boort mill upgrade, and Leandro says regional Victoria has very passionate people willing to work across the Cobram Estate’s sites.

'Boort offers great farmland and access to water,' Leandro says. 'Being located in Boort means we can employ people who are close to town and happy to live near the site.'

'More fruit brings bigger harvest seasons meaning Cobram Estate will continue to hire more part time workers between April and June. As we have a great business relationship with many of the fantastic accommodation and hospitality businesses in town, our seasonal workers want to come back.'

'For us, having the same employee return year after year makes our job a lot easier.'

Beyond olive oil

Like any processing operation, minimising waste is a major part of any operation’s success.

Olive oil production is no different, resulting in olive by products including pomace, which is the left-over olive pulp and pit.

Cobram Estate is finding new ways to use olive by-products in sustainable and creative ways at both of its milling sites.

The company dries and conditions leftover pulp after the extraction of olive oil, using it for a wide range of products that are largely sold business to business. Cobram Estate is also exploring the use of olive by-products as stockfeed and soil conditioner.

'The olive pit has fantastic value as a source of renewable energy and we use that internally to replace any gas requirements as well as we supply any excess to external partners such as cogeneration plants, regional hospitals and greenhouses throughout Victoria,' Leandro says.

Cobram Estate’s extra virgin olive oils are available in supermarkets across Australia and via its website: Cobram Estate.

For more information, visit Regional Development Victoria.