CSU Fresno Developing Tree Nut Hulling/Processing Course for Students


You may recall, in your previous life of schooling, having to sit through riveting science lectures. Lessons often centered around the makeup of cells within our bodies, or the fundamentals of chemistry might come to mind. While most of us can be thankful that we have yet to be tested on these past lectures, what if there were labs and lectures tailored specifically to helping students familiarize and understand the tree nut hulling and processing industry? Students at CSU Fresno (Fresno State) will soon have that opportunity.

Tree Nut Industry Classes
Over the past year, staff with the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), along with WAPA’s Board of Directors, have been meeting with Fresno State representatives to discuss opportunities within the tree nut industry. From research opportunities within the industry, to internship/work experience positions available for students, Fresno State has made a concerted effort to connect with the industry. Through these conversations, an opportunity was presented. Dan Pronsolino, Dunnigan Hills Hulling and Shelling and WAPA Board Member, identified that students graduating with Ag degrees from the various agricultural universities within the state were coming into the industry with little-to-no background knowledge of the industry. With the hopes of incorporating one day’s lecture to cover the multitude of processes and issues specific to the tree nut industry, Fresno State staff upped the ante. Alicidia Freitas Gomes, Ag One Executive Director and Senior Director of Development, along with Athanasios Alexandrou, Professor and Chair of the Department of Industrial Technology, proposed developing an entire course centered around the Tree Nut Industry.

Developing Curriculum
WAPA Board Members and Staff have worked on developing course curriculum along with securing equipment donations. The structure of the class will be a Lab/Lecture (similar to any college science class you might remember) with the lecture component focusing on overview of the industry, while the lab would provide students with a hands-on experience to the specific equipment they can expect to find within the industry. Fresno State has a similar lab already established focusing on equipment found in a typical citrus packing line. Students will get hands on experience from the planting of trees, to maintenance and the growing season, to learning about harvest. Additionally, students will see what processes the nuts go through as they make their way from the field to finished packing. Students will have the opportunity to work with equipment utilized in the hulling, shelling and processing for almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios. WAPA Staff and Board Members felt that students should be exposed to processes for all tree nuts to better prepare students for careers within the industry.

A Range of Lecturers
The lab will be instructed by Athanasios Alexandrou, while the lecture portion will have numerous guest speakers and lecturers. Lectures will range from site selection and management for planting, to cutting/grafting, to harvesting, and that will eventually lead up to the majority of the lecture sessions focusing on cleaning, cracking, shelling, drying, storage of the product. The Department of Industrial Technology heavily focuses on the equipment side of operation through the other degree programs that they offer, and so lectures will be dedicated to hydraulics, the understanding of mechanical drives within an operation, as well as the use of computer sensors within tree nut facilities. During preliminary discussions, WAPA discussed the necessity to incorporate state and federal laws into the curriculum, specifically highlighting the various safety requirements that tree nut facilities must follow. Lectures will be taught by various equipment manufacturers, industry representatives and safety coordinators to display the multitude of issues that the industry faces today. The course will be made available to both Department of Industrial Technology students, as well as to Jordan College of Agriculture students. If you would like more information, please reach out to Chris McGlothlin, Director of Technical Services with the Western Agricultural Processors at (559)-455-9272 or by email at chris@agprocessors.org.

On a related note, Dan Pronsolino has attended several job fairs at Fresno State over the past year, and has collected applications and conducted interviews with nine qualified candidates that are able and willing to work during the 2019 harvest season for your hulling and processing facility.

The students would work for during the 2019 harvest in the United States, before being transferred to a second harvest experience opportunity in Australia. Positions do not need to be made for these students, rather, they would take the place of a normal position within the business on a temporary basis. This is meant to be a hands-on learning opportunity to prepare these graduates to enter a career position in our field. After 12 months in this program they will have experienced two different harvests on two different continents and gained valuable real-world skills that can be applied in our industry. Those companies who hire these students into their initial harvest roles will be well suited to hire the students after the program is complete. If you have any interest in utilizing a recent CSU Fresno graduate for the harvest season, please feel free to reach out to Dan Pronsolino—Dunnigan Hills Hulling & Shelling at (530) 801-1874, or by email at danp@dunniganhillshulling.com, or reach out to Chris McGlothlin with WAPA at chris@agprocessors.org or by phone at (559)-455-9272