The conventional separation system for the recovery of palm kernel from its palm shell–kernel mixture using water as process media generates a considerable amount of waste effluent that harms the environment. The aim of this study is to develop a dry separation process for the recovery of palm kernel by using winnowing columns. A commercial system consisting of a series of five winnowing columns was developed and installed at a local palm oil mill. The system parameters, including column height, blower capacity, airflow rate and mesh screen size for shell removal, were studied and optimized to ensure good separation of kernel and shell in the column to enable collection of different sizes of kernel and shell at each column outlet. The performance of the separation process was evaluated in terms of its kernel losses, dirt content and kernel recovery rate. The average kernel losses based on oil palm fresh fruit bunches processed were found to vary from 0.11 to 0.30 wt %, with most of the values obtained being below the targeted limit of 0.30 wt %. The dirt content was in the range 4.56–6.03 wt %, which was mostly below the targeted limit of 5.5 wt %. The kernel recovery rate was in the range 5.69–6.89 wt %, with most of the values achieving the minimum targeted limit of 6.00 wt %. The system operates under completely dry conditions and, therefore, produces zero waste effluent.
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