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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Almond Huller & Sheller

 Our almond huller is running in full swing, so I thought I would go and check it out! We belong to a cooperative huller, meaning the farmers who use its services own an interest in the huller.  A select few farmers who are members of the cooperative are also elected on the board of directors. Most of the hullers in our southern Central Valley region of California are cooperatives. We also have a few large corporations and small growers in our region that operate private hullers as well.

The huller has received over half of all almonds that it will this year, but some have to wait in stock piles to be run at a later date. When the farmer is done harvesting and picking up the almonds from the field, they haul them to the huller in semi truck trailers. When the trucks arrive, the almonds are weighed and either sent to be processed or stock piled until the huller can run them. They fumigate and tarp the stock piles to keep the almonds safe from any insects or rain that may hurt the almonds  while they are waiting to be hulled and shelled.
Stock piles waiting to be hulled and shelled
Semi from the field dumping almonds to be hulled


When it's time to run the almonds through the huller, the almonds are dumped into a giant pit to remove any excess sticks and foreign material. Once the almonds are separated, they are run through a series of shaking trays and rollers that remove the outer layer called the hull.
At our huller, the almonds can either go to further processing to remove the shell or can be left in-shell. In-shell is a newer marketing trend in which some of the foreign countries that buy the almonds will then use their own labor to remove the shell, providing more jobs in their own country.  The second option is removing the shell by cracking it and separating out the almond meat. This may lead to mechanical defects on the softer almond varieties. These almonds with defects are separated and sold as hash.

 
Almonds to be cleaned from foreign material

Sticks separated from almonds

Shaking belt
Almonds being sorted for defects
Trays carrying the almonds to be shelled
Finished almonds!
 Once the final almonds are separated and the hull and shell is removed, they are poured into wooden bins to be transported to further processing. At the processor, they will be pasteurized for human consumption as required by USDA and further packaged to be sold in the many different forms we find them in the grocery store.

 Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

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