Gaea works with growers from family farms who take enormous pride in their work. Harvesting by hand means they get extremely up close and personal with the fruits that will become Gaea olives and oil. They painstakingly select only the best.
Contrastingly, industrial producers use machines to “pick” their olives. What the machines really do is to shake the trunk so that the fruit falls from the branches and catch the olives in a net. It’s a much more efficient method (a tree can be harvested in less than sixty seconds!), but the cost is quality. These machines have none of the finesse of farmers. Whole branches can fall into the olives, along with bugs and other unwelcome detritus—sometimes even the trunk can get damaged. Olives may get banged up and bruised. The fruits languish in piles for long stretches before heading into the mill to be pressed. At Gaea, our olives are crushed within 24 hours. All of these details make a huge difference.
The newest method, popular in California and Australia, is something called super-high-density planting. Scientists have created dwarf versions of olive trees, which get packed into hedgerows and pruned so that the olives grow close to the central trunk. These dwarf trees are created so they are easy to plant close together—they grow between 1,000 and 2,000 trees per hectare (or 2.5 acres), which is a giant number of trees in a small space. They are harvested with equipment that combs the olives from the trees and places them on a sort of conveyer belt. Super-high-density harvests are almost entirely mechanized.