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Department of Industrial Technology

WAPA Nut Lab industry sponsors

Western Agricultural Processors Association Nut Processing Laboratory

Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology students at Fresno State have unparalleled access to hands-on training with innovative technlogy tied to several of the area's leading commodities through the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) Tree Nut Processing Laboratory.

Officially opened in April 2022, the state-of-the-art nut processing laboratory was made possible by nearly $800,000 worth of donated equipment and services by Central Valley industry partners and coordinated by WAPA.

The campus laboratory features advanced processing equipment that can shell or hull almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans to meet industry standards. “The gift will enable the Jordan College to further collaborate with industry, enhance the skills of its students and allow the local companies to remain competitive and thrive,” said Dr. Athanasios Alexandrou, Department of Industrial Technology faculty.

The nut industry is a key contributor to the nation’s leading agricultural state, accounting for 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 are trained to to operate automated technology such as TOMRA Nimbus 640 grading equipment, which uses lasers to separate defective products based on nut color. The equipment was donated by TOMRA, a Norwegian-based company that has a national food sorting headquarters and facility in Sacramento.

Other laboratory equipment includes: 

  • Forsbergs 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 content.
  • Nolin Steel gyrating shaking equipment that uses screens to sort nuts by size.
  • Qcify automated analyzer that measures and compares sample product quality to Cloud-based industry standards.
  • A.B. FAB aspiration system for the separation of foreign material.
  • Portable incline conveyor provided by Capay Canyon Ranch.
  • Chiller equipment donated by Chandler Automation.
  • Air tank and dryer provided by Cortina Hulling and Shelling.
  • Airflow ductwork and fan constructed by Robinson’s Sheet Metal.
  • Equipment, bucket elevator equipment stand and support installed by Excelsior Construction.
  • Additional construction services were provided by JTI Electric (wiring and mechanical work), Harris Construction (scissor lift), J.M. Equipment (forklift usage) and Piña Brothers (air lines utility work).  

A Fundamentals of Nut Processing class tied to the software and equipment operation and maintenance is taught by department lecturers who actually work in the field - Adam Salwasser, an almond and pistachio processing consultant, and Emmanuel Ramos, director of operations at Touchstone Pistachio Company. 

The class curriculum, which also covers related software and equipment maintenance, was created with help from Dan Pronsolino. The Western Agricultural Processors Association board member and Dunnigan Hills Hulling and Shelling general manager added input in the original project planning. Pronsolino initially worked with the Jordan College to coordinate a 12-month internship program where students could get hands-on almond processing experience in both California and Australia. 

The network of industry-tied contacts and campus lab donations reflect Western Agricultural Processors Association’s wide span of expertise and commitment to serving the industry. The professional organization represents the tree nut industry on regulatory and legislative issues related to hullers and processors, and additional consulting services related to food and operation safety, energy, environmental, labor and tax issues.

“We are proud to support Fresno State and create a new opportunity for students to get hands-on training in one of our agricultural industry’s most specialized career fields,” 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 benefit the future of Central Valley agriculture.”  

Another key participant in the lab’s creation was Gary Dunn, director of capital projects at The Wonderful Company’s primary pistachio processing facility northwest of Bakersfield. He oversaw engineering, fabrication and campus installation of equipment on-site that included a bag house air filter, fan system, bucket elevator and equipment stands that were provided by Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds. 


Faculty and student watch nut destoning software

Faculty and student examine nut sorting software

Student Noah Scarbrough learns about nut sorting equipment and sfotware