Olive Growing and Oil Technology

Organized by MAI Zaragoza
Mai Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Ricardo Fernández Escobar

Aims

More than 98% of olive production is to be found in the Mediterranean Basin, where this agricultural system has been developing for thousands of years, characterised by its adaptation to the environment and its empiricism. Several factors have modified the olive production and processing systems in the last decades. The crisis of traditional agriculture and the valorisation of olive oil, due to its organoleptic attributes and its beneficial influence on health, are probably the two most important features. As a consequence, great advances have been made in olive growing and olive oil technology that make it necessary to train professionals and scientists so that from both the public and private sectors they can accommodate these changes and develop sustainable production systems and high quality products.

Objectives

  • To have in-depth knowledge of olive production, industrial processes for olive oil and table olive elaboration, sector economy and product marketing strategies, and to be able to apply the most relevant and innovative techniques and methods that, in a framework of sustainability, may answer specific demands of the sector and secure safety and high-quality products.
  • To be able to integrate knowledge about the olive sector and to know how to plan and develop strategies according to productive, ecological and socio-economic determining factors in particular situations, to lead to optimization of production, progressive intensification of orchards, culture adaptation to different environmental conditions, quality of product control and improvement and competitiveness increase in national and international markets.
  • To assume the responsibility of planning and carrying out, under the supervision of a tutor, but in a manner that must be largely autonomous, a work of initiation to research in olive growing or olive oil technology, whose results may be potentially publishable.
  • To prove knowledge of the scientific and technical information underpinning the research conducted, command of the techniques and methodologies relevant to such research, and capacity to objectively evaluate the significance of its results and conclusions.
  • To know how to communicate the reasoning and conclusions of tutored works carried out in a group or autonomously, to develop skills in the preparation of informative and synthetic documents, and to acquire experience in the preparation and presentation of oral communications delivered and defended before an audience.

PART 1
THE MASTER OF CIHEAM - ZARAGOZA PROGRAMME

TRAINING SEQUENCE

The programme is organized in 6 Units (60 ECTS)

Unit 1
19 Jan.- 12 Feb. ‘16    THE PLANT (8 ECTS)

Unit 2
27 Nov.- 03 Dec. ’15, 15 Feb.-30 Mar. and 15-20 Apr. ’16    CULTIVATION TECHNIQUES (17 ECTS)

Unit 3
07-13 Apr. and 28 Apr.-10 May ’16    CROP PROTECTION (4 ECTS)

Unit 4
28 Sep.- 13 Oct. ‘15    PROCESSING OF TABLE OLIVES (6 ECTS)

Unit 5
22-24 Sep. and 14 Oct.- 26 Nov. ’15    OIL PROCESSING AND QUALITY (19 ECTS)

Unit 6
04-18 Dec. ’15, 11-15 Jan. and 21-26 Apr. ’16    ECONOMICS (6 ECTS)

EXAMINATIONS
Participants take 1 written examination at the end of Units 1, 3, 4 and 6, and 2 written examinations in the case of Units 2 and 5. Written exams consist of a set of questions that require a concise answer. Some of the questions are multiple choice. Lengthy questions are avoided.
Participants may retake failed exams once.
For the evaluation of Unit 2 participants also present written personal practical exercises on experimental methods. For the evaluation of Unit 5 participants also present a written report for the assessment of their stays in industries. Practical exercises in Unit 6 are directly assessed by lecturers.

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION
The working language is Spanish, therefore participants should prove knowledge of Spanish at the start of the course. From the beginning of July to the end of September the University of Córdoba organizes an intensive course of Spanish for those who require it. In the selection of candidates, knowledge of English is nevertheless valued, as part of the documentation distributed may be written in this language.

PART 2
THE MASTER OF SCIENCE THESIS

Supervised research work: Thesis and defence (60 ECTS)
Duration: 11 months

This part is organized in 2 Units

INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH (30 ECTS)

The aim of this unit is to provide the prior knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to carry out a research project in a particular topic in the speciality of olive growing or olive oil technology.

Learning outcomes:

  • To improve skills in the search for information, as well as in its selective and systematic treatment.
  • To develop criteria for defining the objectives of a particular research study.
  • To know how to plan the research work in order to best achieve the objectives set and to optimise time.
  • To develop skills in the use of techniques and methodologies relevant to the execution of a research project and to discern the advantages and disadvantages of each one for each particular project.
  • To know how to integrate knowledge and to learn how to analyse and contrast results.
  • To value the guidance received to plan and develop a research work, fostering dialogue, criticism and capacity to work as a member of a team.
  • To develop skills for self-directed learning and autonomous work.
  • To improve the capacity of response to unforeseen situations and the ability to reorient a research if need be.

MASTER THESIS (30 ECTS)

The aim of this unit is to apply previous education received throughout the Master programme to carry out original research in the topic chosen in the previous unit, that concludes with the elaboration of a written thesis.

Learning outcomes:

  • To be able to apply previously acquainted knowledge, methods and techniques in a discerning manner.
  • To develop skills in the analysis of problems and in the definition of objectives.
  • To know how to design the diverse experiments included in the research project correctly.
  • To be competent in data collection and analysis according to a pre-established research protocol.
  • To gain experience in the analysis of results and the elaboration of conclusions that may contribute to clarify and find possible solutions to problems.
  • To develop skills in the synthesis and presentation of contents and in the preparation of scientific texts.
  • To gain practice in the preparation and presentation of oral communications and in their public defence.
  • To acquire attitudes to favour exchange and collaboration with other researchers and professionals.

Research work is carried out in well-recognized institutions (universities, research centres or firms), generally throughout Spain or in the participant's country of origin, under the scientific supervision of a thesis director that must be a doctor of renowned prestige. Participants choose the topic according to their interest of training, which is approved by a Committee. If the participant so requires, the organizing institutions advise on the choice of the most appropriate thesis director and institution to carry out the desired project, and likewise propose topics related to their research activities or other topics of interest previously accorded with other institutions.

The assessment of acquired competences for both units is made by an examining board composed of representatives of the organizing institutions and external members selected in each case for their expertise and prestige in the field of the research work. For the first unit, this assessment is based on: (i) an oral examination by the examining board; (ii) the evaluation done by the thesis director on the performance of the candidate; and (iii) the evaluation based on the reports presented periodically by the participant, with the support of the thesis director, on the development and progress of the research work. For the second unit, assessment is based on quality of the thesis and on its public presentation and defence.

Research activities: most common topics for Master of Science theses

  • Study of morphological or genetic traits of different cultivars, sometimes relating them with agronomical or oil quality characteristics
  • Growing techniques (fertilisation systems, propagation techniques, plant forcing, etc.) and their effect on performance and on other parameters of agricultural or industrial interest
  • Olive pest/diseases characterization, host-pathogen interrelations and control
  • Economics and marketing of olive and oil products
  • Different olive oil extraction, separation and processing procedures and their implications in final oil quality