In one of my earlier post, I listed about 50 successful small businesses you can start with little capital in Nigeria; snail rearing business was one of them. So, today I will discuss Snail farming business in detail. Snail farming business is one of the ‘secret millionaire business’ in Nigeria though not as popular as many other lucrative businesses.
If you are interested in starting this business; what I am going to share here below is complete guide to starting a lucrative snail rearing business in any locality.
Snail rearing also known as heliculture is the breeding, raising and production of snails. Snails are useful for their meat served as several local and international delicacies, their shell are used for pharmaceutical purposes and also crushed for animal feed because of its rich source of calcium.
Reasons why snail farming is a lucrative Business
Environment: Snails are environment-friendly, because, unlike poultry or pigs, neither the snail nor its droppings smell offensively. Snails can also be reared in the backyard, little spaces and a small garden.
Inputs: Capital, technical, labour and financial inputs in simple snail farming are relatively low compared to those in other types of livestock farming (poultry, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle).
Snail meat: Snail meat is a good source of protein. It is rich in iron and calcium, but low in fat and cholesterol compared to protein sources from other livestock.
Climate: Without expensive artificial means of climate control, snail farming is restricted to the humid tropical forest zone, which offers a constant temperature and high relative humidity.
Cultural restrictions: Snail meat is considered a delicacy by some, whereas others will not even touch it for religious or cultural reasons.
Growth: Snails are relatively slow-growing animals. Furthermore the consumable meat makes up only 40% (maximum!) of the snail’s total live weight. Consequently snail farming is not a way to make money quickly!
Snails are pests: Snails that have escaped from a farm, or been dumped by a farmer, may quickly develop into a serious pest in agriculture and horticulture. They reproduce in high number and will cost a lot to get rid of.
Starting a Snail Farming In Your Locality
The following stages need to taken into consideration when starting a snail rearing business anywhere in the globe;
- Planning: Any business started without adequate plans is an accident waiting to happen; you need to prepare for how you intend to go about the production, marketing and organization.
- Production and Sales: Define the reasons why you intend to start a farm (personal or commercial?), what is your end goal? How many snails do you intend to produce? How many do you intend to sell?
- Investment: How much do you plan to put invest in it? How much profit do you intend to make?
- Technical know-how: Learning the life cycle of snails, how they interact with the environment and how to set up ideal conditions to breed snails.
- Facilities: You will need to brainstorm the environment you plan to breed you snails, the location, feeds and equipment you plan to use to achieve optimum results.
- Market: If your intention is for commercial purposes, you need to understand the market value for snail farming. How much you stand to gain from snails and how to target high end clients and customers. Don’t start snail farming if you do not have a market for it.
Understanding Commercial Snail Farming
There are more than 200 species of snails and as high as 20 species are edible, there are three commonly reared species in West Africa.
Achatina achatina, Archachatina marginata, and the Achatina fulica
The Achatina achatina commonly called “The Giant snail” and locally called katantawa (Hausa), ilako, isan (Yoruba). Names in other countries include Gambia: honuldu, Sierra Leone: konk Liberia: dain (Nano), drainn (Gio) Ghana: abobo (Ewe), elonkoe (Nzima), krekete (Hausa), nwapa (Akan), wa (Ga), weJle (Dagarti) East Africa: konokono (Swahili).
It is the most popular specie commercially for its size and market value. They are considered the as the largest and usually take a longer time to reach maturity. It can reach up to 30cm in length. It reproduces majorly by self-fertilization and can produce up to 300 eggs per batch.
Archachatina marginata: Commonly called big black snail and giant African land snail,also called Liberia: proli (Kepelle), Ghana: pobere (Akan), Nigeria: igbun (Yoruba), ejuna (Ibo). It is a large snail, generally growing to about 20 cm and a live weight of 500 g. The shell is much less pointed than the Achatina species. It’s eggs are usually large and laid in clutches of 4-18 eggs which is also much more less than the Achatina species. It reproduces by copulation.
Achatina fulica. Common name: garden snail, Ghana: nwa (Akan) Northern tribes of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Nigeria: kreteke, Nigeria: eesan or ipere (Yoruba), Kenya: ekhumuniu (Luhya), kamniyo (Luo) East Africa: konokono (Swahili). It can reach you to 20 cm in length or occasionally more, with a shell length up to 20 cm and a maximum diameter of 12 cm. The conical, spiralled shell is predominantly brown with dark markings. It lays eggs in clutches of 30-300 after copulation. Achatina fulica is less favoured in market as its meat is considered rubbery and not as tasteful as others.
Housing and Feeding
Regardless of housing, your farm must meet the following conditions:
- It must be escape-proof. To prevent personal loss and wandering to neighbourhood gardens, remember snails are serious pests when uncontrolled.
- It must be spacious. Overcrowding affects snail growth and increases the risk of diseases. Ideal densities range from > 100/m2 for hatchlings to 7-10/m2 for breeding snails.
- It must be well protected from pest, predators and poachers.
- It must be easily accessible for feeding, cleaning and safe handling of snails.
- It must be well protected from wind as it accelerates moisture loss in snails. To prevent
snails from drying out, snail farms should be situated in sites that are protected from the wind. Downhill sites are usually the most suitable, preferably those with good tree cover to reduce wind impact. Planting (fruit) trees around snail pens will help to reduce wind speed and improve the micro-climate. It will also protect the snails from scorching sun or torrential rain.
- The soil must be loamy and rich in organic matter
- Snails are cold blooded so care must be taken to avoid excessive heat and moisture loss
- Care must be taken to always keep the soil moist but not waterlogged
- The soil in the snail pens will become fouled with mucus and droppings. Therefore, it must be changed once every three weeks to three months depending on the size of the pen.
Snail Housing Systems
There are three types of housing system that you can practice for your snail farm namely;
Extensive: Outdoor or free range pens
Semi-intensive: Controlled environment for egg laying and hatching before transfer to free range pens for young snails.
Intensive: Plastic tunnels, greenhouses, drums and tires, buildings with controlled climate.
- Car Tires, Buckets and Oil drums: Tires stacked on each other covered with chicken wire or mosquito mesh. These cheap systems are suitable for few snails per container.
- Hutch boxes: This is suitable for hatching and nurseries for young snails. Common with semi intensive farms.
- Trench pens: constructed concrete pen in the ground. Common with intensive farms and then to be costly.
- Mini Paddocks: Fenced pens that lots of space for roaming and movement.
- Free range pens: Big plots of lands fenced, containing planted trees, shrubs and plants that acts a wind breaks, shelter and protection.
In an extensive system, snails feed only on vegetation planted in their pens specifically for that purpose, as in mini-paddock and free-range pens.
In a semi-intensive snail farm, external feed is provided to hatchlings, juveniles and possibly to breeding snails housed in hutch boxes or trench pens.
In an intensively managed snail farm, all snails, at whatever growing stage, are always provided with external feed. Snails are kept in hutch boxes or trench pens.
In very intensive farms the snails are fed a formulated snail feed mix containing all the proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins required for optimal growth. Unless your snail farm is of the very extensive type, you will have to provide your snails with some or all the food they need for good development. This will require efforts on your part in growing or collecting snail food, or cash for buying it. Therefore, you must know what snails eat and what they need.
Snails are vegetarians and they will avoid food containing toxic chemicals. Care must be taken to avoid giving your snails’ concentrated substances and supplements that could affect their growth and even cause death. A snail’s diet must consist of carbohydrates, proteins and lots of calcium for their shells and other minerals and vitamins.
Recommended food items
Leaves: cocoyam, kola, paw paw, cassava, okra, eggplant, loofa, centrosema, cabbage and lettuce. Paw paw leaves (as well as its fruit and fruit peels) stand out in many trials as good snail food.
Fruits: paw paw, mango, banana, eggplant, pear, oil palm, fig, tomato and cucumber. Fruits are usually rich in minerals and vitamins, but low in protein.
Tubers: cocoyam, cassava, yam, sweet potato and plantain. Tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, though low in protein. (Cassava should be the low-cyanide type).
Household waste: peels of fruit and tuber, like banana, plantain, pineapple, yam tubers, paw paw and leftovers like cooked rice, beans, fufu and eko.
Caution: household waste must not contain salt!
Market waste: Because snails are vegetarians, the cheapest way to feed them is by collecting rejected but recommended food from marketplaces. At the end of any market day, some perishable vegetables and fruits still useful for snail consumption can be collected from the dumping areas.
This would reduce the cost and labour of buying or cultivating vegetables and fruits only to feed snails.
Supplements: Supplementary mineral and vitamins can be provided to boost snail growth like ground limestone, licking stones, crushed oyster and snail shells.
In extensive farming, the snails follow their normal life cycle with little interference such as removal of dead snails, keeping the pens moist during the dry season and harvesting of mature snails.
While in semi intensive and intensive systems the farmer actively manages the lifecycle of the snails from hatching, growing, and maturity to harvesting.
In either case the farmer must obtain his breeding stock from the bush, other farmers, and local market and research institutes. It is important to get quality breeding stock and advisable to avoid stock from the local market as the snails are usually stressed, mishandled and not suitable for breeding as many could end up dying.
It is also important to start breeding during or towards the beginning of the rainy season as this is usually the breeding season of snails.
In semi intensive and intensive farming, farmers keep and care for eggs, hatchlings, growers and breeders in separate boxes.
How to Process Snails Meat before Eating
Freshly gathered snails can just beeaten (except if collected when aestivating or hibernating). They can be used directly, but all faeces and dirt must be removed in the kitchen. It is easier and more hygienic to have them defecate before use. Store them in a basket or sack in a cool, shaded place without food for 2-4 days, to enable them to discharge all ailments in their intestinal tract. They are now ready for washing, boiling and dressing.
Washing: Put snails in a bucket with water, adding some salt and a dash of vinegar. Lemon or lime juice can be used instead of vinegar. Soon, the snails will start to discharge their slime: a milky, whitish liquid. Throw away the water and repeat the washing procedure until the water remains clear.
Boiling: After washing, put snails into boiling water, again adding some salt and vinegar, or lime or lemon juice, and boil thoroughly at greater than 70 degree centigrade for at least 10 minutes. Achatina fulica is reported to be an intermediate vector of the Rat Lungworm and other diseases potentially lethal to humans when improperly cooked. Thorough boiling is essential!. After boiling, cool for 3 to 5 minutes under running water.
Dressing: Extract the snail from its shell, draining off the body fluid or haemolymph (unless local recipes call for its use), remove the viscera (heart, stomach, kidney, liver, intestines) and cut off the head. Rinse in clean water until water is clear. The snail is now ready for cooking or packaging.
It is important to note that not every customer supports the removal of the viscera and extraction from shells therefore it’s important to communicate properly with your customers and understanding their requirements especially for exports and restaurants.
How to Preserve Processed Snail meat
Processed snail meat Fresh snail meat can be processed, for storage or marketing, in several ways: It can be smoke-dried for sale in the off season when prices are traditionally higher.
The meat can be frozen or canned, for sale to domestic or export markets.
Important things to note about Snail Rearing Business
Finally, to maximize profit in this business; here are important thing note about snail farming;
- You need to make in depth research to understand the best system suited for your environment, read lots of snail help guides to learn systems and strategies that will benefit you the most.
- Reach out to successful snail farmers and see the techniques and strategies they use.
- Take advantage of the season, the dry season has almost doubled the prices of snail meat in the market due to its scarcity.
- Target high end customers and be consistent with your delivery.
- Your snails have to be big and intimidating to gain an edge in the market.
- Be sanitary conscious. Inferior snails should not be eaten or sold.
- The demand for snail is huge especially for exports and it is a market worth millions if well planned. There are lots of success stories and your own farm could be the next.
Feel free to post your comments, inquiries and thoughts in the comments section.