The snail business farming has gained reputation recently but still not very popular like other forms of farming because of lack of deep understanding of how to rear land snails. Therefore, many people seem to ask questions like;
- what do snails eat?
- where do snails live?
- how long do snails live?
- Is snail farming profitable?
- How can I start snail farming business? e.t.c.
All these questions and other myriad of questions will be addressed subsequently in this post.
Snail consumption is popular in so many countries which makes snail farming have a good market potential both locally and internationally. For instance, countries like US, UK, France, Turkey, China, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, as well as African countries including Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Ghana are popular consumers of snails.
Snail farming also known as Heliciculture covers all the areas of snail production for the purpose of consumption or extraction of raw materials for cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Nevertheless, the scope of heliciculture handles the snail food habit, snail reproduction, habitat and classifications.
Is snail farming profitable?
Snail farming is not common and most people prefer picking the snails in the bush during the rainy season. Though there are no concrete data on the consumption rate of snail, but, there are speculations that about 450,000 tonns of snail are consumed annually. So, there is need to improve the production of snails to meet the demand for this commodity.
Snail farming owes its profitability to the factors below;
- They require just a very small capital to start.
- Snails reproduce at a very high rate and this means more money.
- Food for snails are easily available and does not require spending.
- There is no cost whatsoever on human labor since they are easily grown.
- The business is still a alien, hence, demand and cost are still lucrative.
Snail species for commercial farming
There are different species of snails but the edible and marketable ones are known as the “giant African snails”. These species of snail are popular among farmers because of their big size and massive reproductive potentials. Though, the giant African snails is a term used to refer to the species; Achatina fulica, Archachatina marginata and Achatina achatina, yet, there are differences in the morphology of the species.1
The adult snail also known as “giant East African snail” is around 7- 8 cm in height and more than 20 cm in length, previously originated in the East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and some parts of Asia. But, is now grown in many parts of the world.
The species of Achatina fulica are hemaphrodites -meaning, they can possess both testes and ovaries. However, the chances of self fertilization is rare, but, the sexuality is an advantage to fish farmer since mating and reproduction is always spontaneous. In that regards, each of the snail can lay as much as 200 eggs per clutch with an annual cycle of 5 to 6 clutches. In other words, each Achatina fulica is expected to lay about 1000 eggs per year with a hatching viability around 90% – Isn’t it wonderful?
Therefore, Achatina fulica is one the most fertile species of snail. It takes the snail about 6 months to reach maturity.
This specie is also known as the “giant West African snail” or “banana rasp snail” can grow up to 20 cm at maturity just like Achatina fulica. But, this type originated from the west Africa and is common in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Democratic republic of Congo.
Archachatina marginata is a seasonal breeder which thrives more in the rainy seasons. They lay their eggs in the soil, under the leaves or rocks. However, they lay about 5 clutches of egg in a year with each having about 5 – 8 eggs per clutch. The eggs are yellow in color with dark blotches, and their incubation period is about 31 to 40 days.
Achatina achatina is also known as the “giant tiger land snail”. It can grow up to 18 cm in length and 9 cm in diameter. Yet, some of these species in the wild can grow up to 31 cm in length, making the biggest land snail. Hence, their massive size makes them the most prized snail in Africa.
In addition, this specie is also a hermaphrodite and lays up to 1200 eggs in a year. They are more difficult to breed and posses a 3 year breeding cycle which is longer than other snails. The eggs exist in 30 – 300 eggs per clutch and takes about 10 – 31 days to hatch.
Feeding of snails
So many people will advertise all forms of feeds and tag it “snail feed”. If you have been wondering what snails feed on, its very simple and readily available. In other words, the profitability of snail farming is also due to the fact that the snail food is cheap and everywhere.
Snails are herbivorous and feeds on different types of vegetables, fruits and plants. Also, land snails feed on wood, paper and many organic matters as decomposers.
In commercial snail farming business, most farmers feed their snails with paw-paw or papaya leaves because of its rich content in calcium. Actually, calcium is one of the most essential minerals for snails, especially for fattening and building of their shells.
In addition, snails gets their calcium supplementation from feeding on soils and concretes. As a commercial farmer, you have to provide rocks rich in calcium such as limestone or granite as licking stones for the snails. The more calcium the snails have, the stronger and heavier they weigh.
Snail Housing (Snailery)
A snailery is the housing for snails. It is important because Snails are pests and can easily destroy cash crops if not controlled by confining them in a house.
When considering building a snailery for your farm, it is good to bear in mind that snails prefer to stay in damp or humid regions. Therefore, snailery are best situated in a very cool region where dehydration will not occur.
In addition, a very green vegetation is necessary for snail farming since they feed on plants and also its helps to reduce harsh condition like dehydration.
Snailery construction can be done with different materials like metal, wood or raising a block over a piece of land. In fact, the snail housing doesn’t need to be exorbitant, what matters is that the snail are restricted while the appropriate environment for survival is created.
However, there is no ironclad rule on the type of soil on which you can construct your snailery, but avoid over damped soil nor over dry soil. Also, the bare soil is better than concrete floors since snails also feed on soils for their source of calcium.
Sourcing of Snails for farming
This is an important factor because it contributes to the success of your farm. Snails can be sourced from a trusted and reliable farm with good species of snails. Meaning that, you will get to know about their reproductive capacity and size at maturity before buying.
On the other hand, you can choose to get your snails from the wild and domesticate it. There are common places where you can easily get snails you can domesticate.
- Uncompleted block building or stacks of block.
- Farm lands especially ones that has coco yam.
- Stacks of palm fruit bunches.
- River banks especially at night after a heavy rain.
Note that snails are more active at night and can easily be captured by that time of the day.
Finally, you can attract snails by the baiting method. This method involves clearing a portion of land in the bush, place baits like palm fruits and paw paw and cover with coco yam leaves. Subsequently, check every night for snails that are attracted by the baits especially after a rainy day.
Market potential for snail farming
Snail farming has both local and international potential because of the majority consumers of the meat. Actually, snail meats are served as Escargot in many European countries, France, Spain and Portugal. Owing to the risk that fatty and red meats pose to the cardiovascular health, the popularity of consuming Escargot has increased.
Hence, snail foods are now served in plenty restaurant and food houses. In Nigeria, there is a special dish of snail food with vegetables. The popular “Afang soup” is usually prepared with periwinkles or snails. Therefore, many people are readily available to buy snails.
In addition, there are demands of snails from cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
How long does a snail live?
Snails for commercial farming are not usually allowed to live up its full life expectancy. Most snails mature after 6 to 8 months and can be harvested at that stage. Allowing the snail to stay longer does not add a very significant increase in the size of the snails.
Nevertheless, snails can still survive up to 10 years before dying.