Snails are interesting creatures that offer a profitable business opportunity. It is an unusual business, but the few snail farmers there are, are reaping the rewards in millions.
Snail farming is known as Heliciculture, and refers to the process of raising land snails, solely for human consumption.
Snail farming is profitable because, there is a high demand for it, and sometimes, demand for snail is higher than its supply. Snails are seasonal creatures, as they do not come out during the dry seasons. During the rainy seasons, they are in high supply, but during the dry season, they are scarce. At such, its prices during the dry season are usually exorbitant, and snail farmers who have supply all year round, can cash in on this.
Also, snails are usually found in the bush, but with urbanization, most of their habitats are being converted into shopping centres, apartments, etc. To cope with the world’s demand for snail, snail is therefore reared through the extensive or intensive system.
Snail is not just reared for its meat, but also for its by-products like;
- Snail shell: It can be used for medicinal purposes, as ornaments, or as tools.
- Snail eggs or caviar: Snail eggs or caviar are consumed by people in soups, or as a delicacy.
- Snail slime: This is used for medicinal purposes, as well as in cosmetics, and in the treatment of burns.
Now that you know the huge market available to a snail farmer, how do you go about starting your own snail farm? The following steps below will guide you through the process.
- Choose housing:
The first step is determining the kind of housing for your snails. You can choose to rear your snails in an open space, but keep these in mind;
- The space must be sandy. The soil should be moist, i.e, not too dry and not too wet.
- The soil must not be acidic
- The best soil for snail farming is a sandy-loamy soil or a loamy soil with low water volume.
- Snails cannot be reared on concrete floor because, snails require a certain amount of calcium for building their shells, and this calcium is derived from the soil. They also collect their water from the soil, and lay their eggs on the soil.
You can also rear your snails in an intensive system by building pens and tanks, but always cover the floor with loamy soil, and wet leaves to create an imitation of their natural habitat. The pen could be high fenced or low fenced, but always keep the pen away from predators and insects.
- Source for capital:
Snail farming is not capital intensive, and at such, can be started on low capital. This is because, it doesn’t need much equipment, and the feed can be sourced locally. The amount of capital you start with is dependent on the scale of snail farming you want to do. It is advisable to start with low capital, and then grow your capital.
- Stocking the right breed:
There are many breeds of snails to choose from, but when considering the right breed for your snail farm, you should put into consideration, the size of the snail breed. Big snails are good for snail farming as they can produce over one thousand eggs in a year. This is good for business, as it means having more snails in your farm. Big snails are also sexually matured, therefore their size.
The different breeds available in Nigeria are;
- Pond snail
- Apple snail
- Tracked Nerite snail
- Zebra Nerite snail
- Horned Nerite snail
- Giant tiger land snail
Of all the breeds, the giant tiger land snail (Achatina Achatina)is the best for snail farming, due to its big size.
Snail feed can be sourced locally, because snails eat almost everything as long as it does not have salt content, and is not hairy or waxy. Common sources of snail feed include fruits like watermelon, banana, tubers like yam or sweet potato leaves and veggies like cabbage,
Only harvest your snails when they are mature, in order to command a good market price. Do not harvest all of your snails, but keep some to be as a base for your snail farm and for breeding.
Before marketing your snails, it is advisable to carry out market research, to know the price in the market. This is to aid you fix a price that is profitable. There is a huge demand for snails, so there are a lot of customers from hotels, market women, bars, and restaurants.