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Snail Farming for Beginners
The farming of land snails is called heliciculture, and it’s a very lucrative business venture for practitioners.
Certain types of snails are favored for commercial farming because of their size and the quantity of meat they produce. Many species of snails that are good for farming are found in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Each area has different species that thrive in varied environments.
Not all snails are consumed by humans; some can be downright toxic. Some have other uses: many produce substances used by cosmetic manufacturers. Luckily, most large land snails are edible and are a highly sought-after delicacy that attracts a premium price in the marketplace.
Habitat for Snails
Snails are nocturnal and can be found in different habitats, from woodlands to open fields, flower beds and gardens to moist sand dunes and under vegetation. Many are found in Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East.
What Do Snails Eat?
The snail, despite its apparent sluggishness, is a highly voracious feeder, depending on the choice of delicacies in its immediate environment. Snails feed on fruits, vegetables like cabbage, microscopic algae and moist leaves like banana or plantain leaves or lettuce.
Snails love lettuce and most vegetables we eat; they can also chow down on carrots, mangoes and apples. Snails prefer eating living plants, and you can also find them eating certain mushrooms and fallen leaves.
Other important food sources for your land snail can include algae, decaying leaves, flowers, and the bark of trees. Snails also actively seek calcium because it is an important ingredient that helps build their shells. Snails are not strictly herbivores but more like omnivores because they are opportunistic feeders.
Snails also drink water, so farmers should provide a source of water that is easily reachable.
Starting an Escargot Business
The escargot business is lucrative and attracts a premium price for snails that are hand-reared in snail farms. The business can encompass the rearing, wholesaling or retailing of snails to customers and end users.
Escargot businessmen have to be acquainted with the rules and regulations of the country they operate. You can concentrate on the top species of snails in your locality. Then build your pen in a moist, humid area with good soil and stock with high-quality snails.
Introduce earthworms to help loosen the soil, and give your snails fresh vegetables and fruits. Remember, calcium is important, and proper egg distribution is necessary. Source local and international buyers like supermarkets, restaurants, meat shops and the open market.
Snail farming is about gathering the right resources, like humidity and temperature controls, the type of pen needed and the quality of the soil. Other considerations are the sourcing of food and provision of calcium which constitutes 97% of the snail's shell.
Climate control is important, especially devices like sprinklers to keep the soil moist. Protective pens that are pest-proof are needed. Snails can be eaten or killed by lizards, birds and rodents. They are surprisingly mobile so keeping them safe and secure should be your number one priority.
The equipment needed to farm snails includes outdoor pens or indoor plastic tunnels for breeding. Climate control equipment like sprinklers and humidifiers is important to keep the temperature range from 16° to 24°C.
A drainage system and adequate moisture are important, with soil whose components are partly sand and clay plus additives like limestone (for calcium), polyacrylamide, and magnesium.
A pen can be made out of galvanized sheet metal, wire gauze, wood or block material. There should be easy access, and it should be fenced or covered to prevent predators like rats. A plastic pipe network can also be introduced into the pen. A sprinkler system and equipment to measure humidity levels is important.
You are free to explore different types of enclosures that can provide shade, good soil and proper temperature and prevent the snails from escaping.
Edible Land Snails
The two main genera that farmers like are Helix and Achatina, but other smaller snail types are also farmed. Snail species regularly farmed in Europe include Helix aspersa and Helix pomatia, while the giant snail species are farmed in Africa.
Achatina achatina is the largest land snail in the world. It goes by a few other names: tiger snail, the giant African snail, or "tiger stripes."
Helix includes Helix aspersa, Helix lucorum, Helix aperta and Helix pomatia, while Achatina includes Achatina fulica and four other species. Other snail types farmed for meat and other commercial purposes are Otala lacteal, Iberus alonensis, Cepaea nemoralis, Cepaea hortensis, Otala punctata, Eobania vermiculata, Theba pisana and many more.
Some Edible Snails
Europe, US, New Zealand, Southern Africa
Europe and North Africa
Achatina achatina measures around twenty-one centimeters (10—15 cm) in length and seven point five centimeters (5.5 cm) in height, though it can be much larger. The coiling on the shell is either clockwise or anticlockwise. The snail is usually brownish in color, and the color depends on what the snail eats and its environment.
The diet includes leaves, fruits, algae, worms and vegetables.
Achatina achatina is an invasive species that lives in warm climates, with subspecies like the Achatina fulica hamilie, Achatina fulica rodatz, Achatina sinistrosa and Achatina fulica umbilicata. The snail grows easily in warm regions of Africa and can be found in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and may West African countries.
They love food and shelter plants like plantains and bananas and can be found living in the soil around such plants or under the large flat leaves.
Land Snail Anatomy
Snails are burrowers and live beneath the soil or in shaded areas. They have a spiral shell that doubles as protection and shade. The shell is 98% calcium-based. The pedal gland produces an adhesive substance that allows the snail to crawl.
Land snails also have a muscular foot, one or two pairs of tentacles, and lungs with which to breathe air. They have hard shells and lay many eggs during mating season, sometimes numbering one hundred depending on the species.
Snails have a mouth and a radula tongue with small corneous teeth for grabbing food and salivary glands for digestion. Snails are hermaphrodites and have organs of both sexes, and are able to procreate with each other.
Snails as Food
Snails can be added to stew, boiled with vinegar, fried, grilled, stewed or cooked in spicy sauces. They are a delicious source of protein with fewer health hazards than red meat. Snails should be thoroughly cleaned and cooked to prevent infection, especially if harvested from the wild.
Snail meat can be found canned, boiled and salted, fried in oil and served as snacks, or cooked and spiced.
Each government has many rules and regulations guiding snail production and sales, which might include permits and restrictions, business planning, state regulations, guides to small farming, slug control, and sales. Regulations cover imports, rearing and adequate facilities, others involve environmental issues and species control.
Some permits cover transporting the snails, type of species allowed into the country, import and export licensing and producing and canning process. Before venturing into snail farming, find out all the regulations and laws guiding the country you reside.
Is It for You?
Snail farming can make you lots of money because the creatures multiply rapidly under favorable conditions. They attract high prices but need time and patience. Before venturing into the business, try to visit a snail farm and read many instructional materials to get a broader idea.
Snails are living things and are also prone to sickness and disease, so start small and learn the trade while going about your regular job or other things.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 femi
Rrr on September 03, 2020:
Tnx soo much
Tawakalitu on June 18, 2020:
Am interested in this snail business but I need more enlightenment
Blessing on May 08, 2020:
I really appreciate you for this great knowledge, God bless you
femi (author) from Nigeria on November 30, 2019:
What do you mean by senile farming or do you mean snail farming?
cowrex on October 28, 2019:
this is really interesting
femi (author) from Nigeria on October 20, 2018:
snail breeding is time consuming and miderately challenging. it is easier buying your fighting stock from the market
rodger koo on October 17, 2018:
i am interested in snail breeding, so i can start my snail fighting league any suggestions on where to start?
femi (author) from Nigeria on September 08, 2018:
Visit your local market or farmers in your locality to buy stock. market grade ones are not ideal however they will grow..
Binta on July 23, 2018:
Where can i buy giant tiger snails or african snails in malaysia?
adya on July 18, 2018:
use coconut fibers as substrate for your snails and as for calcium you can give them cuttle fish bones or egg shells with the membrane removed ( it is better to give them the bone though .my snails seem to enjoy it.)
Phaneendra on July 10, 2018:
Can I know a mail id of snail cultivator or a consultancy...interested in snail farming
Nyame on June 19, 2018:
Wow this is great.i want to know about the eggs and hatching them. Thanks
sujit on June 12, 2018:
Hi I am interested to know more. Will you provide me any pdf?
email@example.com on June 06, 2018:
I am from UK and really struggling to get a place for training.
anyone have a suggestion in east midlands?
femi (author) from Nigeria on May 24, 2018:
I would like to thank Mort for some corrections in the publication.
femi (author) from Nigeria on May 09, 2018:
Frances on May 07, 2018:
Great piece, very useful!
emmanuel on January 08, 2018:
where can i get the snails to buy to start the farms in Ghana
Richard on October 18, 2017:
I really appreciate this write-up. Have learn a lot. I am seriously considering venturing into snail farming, and i had a few question or should i say conflicts in my thoughts, but this write-up has touched on many of these conflicts.
I would have love to visit a snail farm to see for myself what physically goes into it, but there is none close to my residence and none heard of in my region (hence the idea to venture).
I will appreciate more write-ups from here as i believe your statements are facts.
The comments tell me your name is Femi.
Thank you once again
sweet pee on August 12, 2017:
i have just started something and this piece is an eye opener. thanks very much.
Ngor on July 11, 2017:
Please how can I get calcium for my snails, and what kind of soil should i use in the pen. Thank you.
Jude on June 23, 2017:
Please how can I get calcium for my snails, and what kind of soil should i use in the pen. Thank you.
Ndibe Samuel on June 22, 2017:
snail business is a very good business but my challenged is how to build the hutches for the snails not to escape or die
Thebirdlover on June 23, 2015:
coolio! but GALS (giant african land snails) illegal in U.S. cuz they took over florida :(
femi (author) from Nigeria on September 29, 2014:
Thanks for your comment Writerjanis, snail farming is serious business in Africa and parts of Asia.
Janis from California on September 27, 2014:
I didn't even know there was snail farming. I learned something new here. That one snail is huge!