New lab gives students access to modern nut processing technology

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the Jordan College of Agricultural Science and Technology at Fresno State on Friday unveiled a state-of-the-art nut processing lab with a host of campus and area agriculture industry leaders and supporters.

The project, initiated and coordinated by Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), was made possible by nearly $800,000 in equipment and services donated by Central Valley industry partners.

Fresno State Acting Provost Xuanning Fu, Jordan College Dean Dennis Nef, project partners, faculty, students and industry members spoke at the event about the importance of equipment, as well as the use of industry-related instructors to teach a nut processing class and lab. .

“We are proud to support Fresno State and create a new opportunity for students to get hands-on training in one of the most specialized career fields in our agriculture industry,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association. “This is a unique opportunity for industry partners to come together and contribute their expertise and equipment to the future of Central Valley agriculture.”

The campus lab has advanced processing equipment that can shell or shell almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans to meet industry standards. “The donation will enable Jordan College to further collaborate with industry, improve the skills of its students and enable local businesses to remain competitive and prosper,” said Dr. Athanasios Alexandrou, Chair of the Department of Industrial Technology. of Fresno State.

The nut industry is a key contributor to the first agricultural state in the countryrepresenting three of California’s top 10 commodities in 2020 almonds (second, $5.62 billion), pistachios (fourth, $2.87 billion) and walnuts (10th, $958 million).

Students will be trained to use automated technology such as the TOMRA Nimbus 640 grading equipment, which uses lasers to separate defective products based on the color of the nut. The equipment was donated by TOMRA, a Company based in Norway which has a national headquarters and a food sorting facility in Sacramento.

Gary Dunn, Director of Capital Projects at The Wonderful Companyfrom the main pistachio processing plant northwest of Bakersfield. He oversaw the engineering, fabrication, and on-campus installation of on-site equipment, including a baghouse air filter, fan system, bucket elevator, and equipment racks supplied by Wonderful pistachios and almonds.

Dunn has shuttled between Bakersfield and Fresno State since equipment began arriving in January 2021, and has often stayed overnight with his son, Bailey Dunn, a Fresno State senior in the Department of Industrial Technology. Young Dunn was involved in various stages of the building process and took the Fundamentals of Walnut Processing course when it was first offered last spring.

Other lab equipment the Dunns have helped install that has been donated by other industry partners includes:

  • Forsberg G2 destoner equipment that removes rocks and stones.
  • Forsbergs TKV25 product separator that removes leaves, twigs, dust and other debris, and measures nut density to detect defective products that are lighter and have immature contents.
  • Nolin Steel gyratory shaking equipment that uses sieves to sort nuts by size.
  • Qcify automated analyzer that measures and compares product sample quality to cloud-based industry standards.
  • AB FAB suction system for the separation of foreign matter.
  • Portable Inclined Conveyor Supplied By Capay Canyon Ranch.
  • Cooling equipment offered by Chandler Automation.
  • Air tank and dryer provided by Dehulling and Dehulling of Cortina.
  • Air circulation ducts and fan built by Robinson’s plate.
  • Bucket Elevator Equipment Rack, Mount and Rack Installed by Excelsior Construction.

Additional construction services were provided by Electric JTI (wiring and mechanical work), Harris Building (scissor lift), JM Equipment (use of forklift) and Pina Brothers (utility work of overhead lines).

Students will have their first chance to use the fully functional lab in the fall of 2022. Adam Salwasser, almond and pistachio processing consultant, and Emmanuel Ramos, director of operations at Touchstone Pistachio Company, will serve as speakers for the class. This will allow Fresno State to collaborate more with industry partners, improve the skills of its students, and support local businesses.

The course curriculum, which also covers software and related equipment maintenance, was created with the help of Dan Pronsolino. the Board member of the Western Agricultural Processors Association and Dunnigan Hills Hulling and Shelling the general manager added input to the initial planning of the project.

Pronsolino first worked with Jordan College to coordinate a 12-month internship program where students could gain hands-on experience processing almonds in California and Australia.

The network of industry-related contacts and donations from campus labs reflect the Western Agricultural Processors Association’s wide range of expertise and commitment to serving industry. The trade organization represents the nut industry on regulatory and legislative issues related to shellers and processors, as well as additional consultancy services related to food and operational safety, energy, environment , labor and tax matters.

“The Central Valley is a national leader in agriculture thanks to its ability to evolve and be shaped by innovation and technology,” said Nef, Dean of Jordan College. “We sincerely appreciate the efforts of so many industry representatives to make this lab a reality, which also paves the way for new careers and new opportunities for our students to nurture families in the Central Valley and the world.”

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