Round table: Digital transformation in the olive oil mill (Olive milling 4.0)

Product and process control, authentication and monitoring are key issues for the food industry in general and for the olive oil industry in particular, as they affect its efficiency, brand image, economic performance and sustainability. Recent advances in non-destructive spectral sensor technology provide new opportunities to offer solutions to the industry in this challenging field, where it is also essential to monitor and trace products all along the food chain, ‘from farm to fork’. The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) and the European Union (EU) have established standards applicable to all olive oils traded internationally. Despite the enormous effort invested in research into physico-chemical and sensory methods to determine the quality, purity and authenticity of virgin olive oils and the international standards used in official inspections, adulteration of extra virgin olive oil with low quality oils remains a major international problem, with considerable media coverage.

One of the main factors behind the recurrent episodes of fraud is the lack of an adequate and affordable methodology to significantly increase the number of samples inspected per year. Therefore, there is a need for comprehensive analytical inspections of a large volume of olive oils marketed worldwide. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIR) combined with data analytics is well suited for this purpose, as it provides a non-invasive, environmentally friendly and cost-effective analytical technology that provides value-added solutions to the current quality and integrity issues of the olive oil industry, in line with Industry 4.0 and 5.0 concepts. In addition, advances in the development of a new generation of highly portable NIR sensors have opened many new opportunities for on-site use to effectively monitor, control and trace olive oils from origin to consumption, including improved labelling of the final product.