10 May SNAIL FARMING
(Heliciculture/Heliculture) Snail Farming as it is commonly known; is the process of raising land snails specifically for human use, either to use their flesh as edible escargot, or more recently, to obtain snail slime for use in cosmetics, or snail eggs for human consumption as a type of caviar – Wikipedia.
Imagine a plate filled with snail and garnished with different food accessories! Wow…. Very sumptuous! Why then do we shy away from snail production.
Snail farming is one of the most lucrative and profitable agribusiness one can start with low capital. Though it is a neglected animal rearing business in Nigeria due to the old culture of going to the bush to pick snails in the villages during raining time, snail farming provides one of the finest opportunity to make money within a short period of time.
Land snails belongs to the class of Molluscan, Gastropod. The one popularly known as ‘Congo Meat‘ in many parts of Africa. Nigeria – Eju, Igbin, etc… There are so many species of snails but the types we are looking at here are the ones that are suitable for commercial Snail Farming in Africa.
West Africa is home to the largest species of land snails (Achatina species) in the world. This species is known to grow to as long as 30 cm, lives primarily in the tropical rain forest, and can majorly be located in Nigeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and a host of other African countries.
Which Snail Species is Suitable for Snail Farming?
1. Achatina Fulica
The East African land snail, or giant African land snail, scientific name Achatina fulica, is a species of large, air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae. It is the smallest in size among all the desirable species for rearing in Africa.
Achatina fulica has a narrow, conical shell, which is twice as long as it is wide and contains 7 to 9 whorls when fully grown. The shell is generally reddish-brown in colour with weak yellowish vertical markings but colouration varies with environmental conditions and diet. A light coffee colour is common. Adults of the species may exceed 20cm in shell length but generally average about 5 to 10cm. The average weight of the snail is approximately 32 grams (Cooling 2005).
2. Achatina Achatina
Achatina achatina, common name the giant Ghana snail, also known as the giant tiger land snail, is a species of very large, air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae. Giant African land snails are hemraphrodites, meaining they possess both the female and male reproductive organs. Two snails are still needed for breeding, but they are very prolific breeders.
Similar to the other species in the genus, Achatina achatina’s shell can attain a length of 200 mm and a maximum diameter of 100 mm. They may possess between 7-8 whorls and the shell is often broadly ovate. The body of the animal is silver-brown in color although albino morphs may exist.
Achatina-Achatina is very good for commercialization as well, because of its profitability. This is because of the volume of eggs it lays at once. Each achatina lays 300 to 500 eggs at a time in clutches, three times a year. Therefore, if you start a farm with about 1000 snails, in one year you would be getting about 1.5 million snails going by the number of eggs they produces.
3. Archachatina Marginata
Archachatina marginata, common name the giant West African snail, is a species of air-breathing tropical land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae. They can grow up to 20cm long, and live up to 10 years.
Among these three species, Achatina Achatina is the most desirable for farmers because it grows so big to become the biggest snail species in the world. Achatina Achaina has it’s origin from Nigeria, get to Liberia from Nigeria and then Ghana
Another reason is due to it’s high yield capacity. The other species are very good too but I will focus on Achatina Achatina and Archachatina Marginata in this blog post because, they are easy to find in Nigeria.
Having decided on the specie, let’s take you through the step by step how to setup your snail farm in a small scale level and starts rearing your snail towards harvest.
Suitable Environment for Snail Farming
Snails are easily dehydrated, and wind increase the rate of moisture loose in snail which in turn, leads to the dryness of the animal. To prevent snails from losing water so quickly, your snaileries (the snail house) must be located in environment that is protected from wind.
A low plain, downhill site surrounded with enough trees is perfect for snail farming. You may plant plantains and bananas around your snail farm to prevent the impact of wind.
Type of Soil For Snail Farming
Snail’s major habitat is the soil, and soil contains some of the components and chemical substances that it needed to survive. However, not all soils are suitable for snail rearing. The shell of the snail is mainly calcium and it derive most of them from the soil. Snail also lay it’s eggs on the soil and drink water out of the soil.
Hence, the suitable soil for snail farming must contain these elements. Must be balanced, not waterlogged, not too dry, and must not be acidic. The most desirable soil for snail is sandy-loamy soil with low water holding capacity. Clayey soil and acidic soil must be avoided.
Getting The Sails For Farming
To start up a snail farm, it is advisable to get snails directly from the forest instead of buying from the market after they have been exposed to sunlight and have dehydrated. This is because snails drink a lot of water, so are easily dehydrated and this stresses them out, and reduce their fertility capacity.
The intending snail farmer could pick the snails from the bush with a very simple technique; clear a little portion of land during rainy season and sprinkle spicy fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, plantain, banana etc at about 5o’clock in the evening, when you go back there about 7pm or 8pm, you will pick up snails suitable for rearing. Repeat the procedure until you get enough quantity.
Another way could be to pick up snail eggs littered in the market place where it is sold and through a technique, check the fertility of the eggs, because some of them must have lost fertility due to the exposure to sunlight. The eggs are later put inside a container containing wet sand and covered with cocoyam leaf. Between 21 to 28 days, the eggs would hatch into baby snails. You start feeding them and gradually you raise a snail farm.”
Constructing the Snail House (Snailery)
Snaileries can vary from a patch of fence-protected ground, sheltered from the wind to a covered box if you are breeding in small scale.
For larger population of snails, you can dug a trench or make a concrete pen with soil deep of about 10 inches, and cover it with screen or wire all around to prevent the snails from escaping. Remember that snails can reproduce fast and become pests when their breeding is uncontrolled.
Snails love dark and cold places, but make sure the humidity does not drop to levels harmful to the snails. You can use fresh leaves and cloth that is regularly wet to regulate the temperature.
Also, the wire is useful in keeping away rats and snakes or other predators from eating the snails in your snail farm. But aside from these bigger predators, you should be wary about smaller ones like ants and termites. Your construction must have these predators in mind.
Snail Food and Feeding
Snails especially Achatina mainly feeds on green leaves and fruits though they can utilize other ranges of foods. Feed your snails leaves, fruits, or even formula from the feed store. Aside from food to grow tissues, snails need calcium to grow shells.
Leaves: Cocoyam leaves, pawpaw leaves, okra leaves, cassava leaves, eggplant leaves, cabbage and lettuce leaves.
Fruits: Mango, eggplant, pawpaw, banana, tomatoes, oil palm fruits, pears. and cucumber.
Once they start growing, separate the big ones from the small ones. It take more than a year for the Achatina type to grow to harvest size. Others mature in two years.
One hundred thousand snails after a year or two sold at the rate of N50 each (highly reduced price) will give you about N5 million! Isn’t that a good investment?
Harvesting the Snail
It is not economically wise to harvest your snails before it’s maturity, it has to be matured before harvesting. To know if your snails are already matured enough, check the brim of the shell. If it is matured enough, the brim should be thicker and harder than other parts of the shell.
Do not harvest all the matured snails at once for the market. It is important to keep few for breeding and to serve as base stock for your snail farm.
Business Opportunities In Snail Farming Around The World
1). Food Consumption:
Edible snails are a part of regular meals in most households around the world. In Nigeria for instance, many homes prepare their soups with snails occasionally. Despite the infrequent use of snails in meal preparations in the country, the demand still exceeds the supply. This want doesn’t just show a large snail farming business opportunity in the country, but also shows the large potential in exports outside the country.
A short list of some countries that consume edible snails are Spain, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon, France, Cyprus, Ghana, Malta, Italy, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Terai of Nepal, southwestern China, and several parts of the United States.
As long as people will continue to demand snails in their meals, it will constantly remain a lucrative business opportunity for agribusiness entrepreneurs to take advantage of.
Snails have great uses in the cosmetic industry. Different skin creams are gotten from the Helix Aspersa, and can be used in treating scars, acne, wrinkles, and dry skin. The secretions from the Helix Aspersa under stress, can be used in the regeneration of wounded tissue.
Benefits Of Snail Farming
- Easy to handle.
- Shells can be used for ornaments.
- Less land for cultivation.
- They’re cheap and easy to raise.
- Not capital intensive.
- Snail Meat contains anti-tuberculosis attributes.
- Snail meat is used in the production of local herbs to be used by pregnant women.
- Snail farming can be done part time.
- Snail farming can be done along side grasscutter farming.
And many other benefits
Challenges Of Snail Farming
The major challenge of raising snails is that uncontrolled rearing can lead to a pest break-out. Snails can be invasive and become threatening to crops. They consume over 500 types of crops, and can be single-handed destroy a farm’s products.
While raising them, make sure their enclosures are well secured to keep them from escaping, and to protect them from predators like birds and other land animals.
We have snails on the YFarm Project pilot farms.