Scoping study to trial mechanised peeler technology for Australian chestnuts (CH09006)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The development of a processing sector for the Australian Chestnut industry was crucial to the long term viability of the industry. The demand for fresh chestnuts had remained static over the previous ten years due mainly to the influences of modern eating habits. Fresh chestnuts were time consuming to prepare and with the trend towards quick and easy meal options, fresh chestnuts did not fit the characteristics of contemporary meal preparation. If the industry continued to rely solely on the fresh market, then as supply increased there would be downward pressure on prices resulting in reduced profitability for the entire industry.
Brian and Jane Casey of Australian Gourmet Chestnuts had been processing Australian chestnuts off shore in China for the previous 10 years but their desire to process locally encouraged them to investigate the potential financial viability of establishing a processing facility in Australia using existing Italian technology.
To do this, in April 2010 a sample of Purton’s Pride variety Australian chestnuts was sent to Italy for processing using both the steam peeling and flame (brulage) peeling methods.
The Australian chestnuts were processed and the results from the brulage peeling were more encouraging than those from the steam peeling method.
The machinery involved in both systems was complex and difficult to operate. It required constant monitoring and there were no specific parameters for optimal processing. The efficiency of the machine was dependant on the expertise of the operator who constantly monitored the speed and throughput of the process. Variables such as variety, moisture content, pre treatment, size and freshness were just some of the parameters that were considered.
The project determined that the machinery manufactured by Boema and Nunziata in Italy was not suitable for the Australian industry. This equipment was based on large volumes of easy to peel nuts with low raw product costs neither of which was available in Australia at the time.
Other niche processing may have been possible but the smaller scale processing operations observed during previous research in 20081 involved large amounts of unpaid or low cost labour from relatives. These processed products were then generally marketed directly to the consumer at the numerous market days that were common in countries like France and Italy.
Prior to future investment in chestnut processing, further investigation into alternative peeling processes and systems that could operate efficiently at smaller production volumes should be undertaken. Once the Australian production levels increased significantly and the demand for processed chestnuts increased the European machinery could then be reconsidered.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with co-investment from Australian Chestnut Company and funds from the Australian Government.
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