Heliciculture is snail farming. It is the rearing and raising of snails for human consumption. The term “heliculture” basically is the same as heliciculture. Both are used to describe snail farming.
Snail farming or heliciculture is recognized as highly profitable and low-risk farming. The raised snails can be used for food preparation, cosmetics, or feeding reptiles. Escargot shells can be offered as ornaments. Snail eggs are produced for consumption as a form of caviar.
Snail farming has been growing over the past few years. The number of snail farms in Europe and the US is snowballing. Eating snails is the latest and most popular trend. It goes back to the time of prehistoric civilization. In Roman times, eating snails was considered something reserved only to the elite.
Snail Species Good For Snail Farming
The most sought-after snails for consumption are Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa. Escargot is a term used to describe both species. Escargot is typically referred to by both species and is often used for food preparation.
Along with their delicious flavor, the Helix pomatia is loved by foodies worldwide, also called Roman snail, Apple snail, Escargot de Bourgogne, Burgundy, or Gros blanc. It is found all over Europe and the US. They reside in gardens, vineyards, mountains, and valleys. They can reach up to 45 millimeters across their shells.
Also called Cornu aspersum, Gros grout, Petit Gris, tiny gray snail, or the Escargot chagrine. This is a different species that is extremely popular with people who love food. They are found across Europe, the USA, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and some South America regions, including Mexico and Argentina.
Helix aspersa can adapt to nearly any type of condition, which is the reason Helix aspersa is widely considered for profitable snail farming. It can live for 2 to 5 years. A mature Helix aspersa shell is about 30 to 45 millimeters in size.
The size of edible snails ranges between 1 mm to 312 mm long, which is the largest snail species known as Giant African Snail (Achatina Fulica). The production of snails by the giant snails implies that they are typically sliced and then canned to make them ready for consumption. However, farming other species is sold as live, blanched, or frozen.
A Snail Farm
Snail farming is a low investment and highly profitable agribusiness. It can be easily managed. The snails’ tiny size is a big factor in the cost. This means that the cost of establishing a farm for 100 snails is considerably smaller than a farm with 100 cows. It requires less space and less food. Additionally, a snail farm is far better for the natural environment than other farms.
To achieve great results from breeding snails, creating the ideal snails’ environment is essential. Your snails must be happy and healthy to reproduce, grow, and eventually reach the correct size.
Establishing a Snail Farm
Land requirement for snail farming is minimum. It is best to have medium-light soil rich in calcium and lime. For feeding purposes, space is required to grow vegetables and leafy plants. For healthy snail mobility, night dew is essential. You need to secure sheds and snail boxes to prevent snails from escaping. Use materials that are resistant to decay. Pre-existing buildings can be converted to reduce investment costs.
To set up a snail farm, you will need a building for reproduction and some breeding parks to increase the size of the snail. The size and architecture of the building will depend on the goals and requirements of breeding. You can begin breeding edible snails in a variety of ways:
- Purchase snail eggs
- Purchase breeding snails or mothers snails
- Purchase baby snails
A successful snail farm requires appropriate equipment that include:
- Snail enclosures or snail pens
- Devices to measure humidity (hygrometer) and temperature (thermometer), soil moisture, and lighting (in candle holders)
- An instrument that can measure snail size
- A kit for testing soil composition
- A magnifying glass to examine the eggs.
- Equipment to regulate climate (temperature as well as humidity)
- Sprinkler system to keep snails moist
Like artificial lighting systems or water sprinklers, certain horticultural equipment could be adapted to snail farming. The best results are achieved when snails with the same type and species are used. We recommend putting the eggs in a different pen.
Environment Conditions for Snail Farming
Snails have to be capable of grazing and moving across a variety of substrates. They need to produce lots of snail slime or snail mucus for this. In order to help them create enough snail slime, their environment should contain a significant amount of humidity. That’s why you must constantly provide water to the breeding areas. Additionally, the temperature and soil structure also plays an important part.
Along with humidity, snails prefer warmth. The ideal temperature for them is 16-22° C. The soil must be rich in lime which means that the substrate will hold more heat. This will then encourage the development of snails. Liming refers to applying magnesium and calcium-rich materials in different types to the soil. These materials are marl, limestone, chalk, lime, or Lime hydrated. Soils with acidity act with a base to neutralize soil acidity.
Breeding Parks for Snails
The breeding areas are used to increase the snail size. It is the time to attain the proper size, weight, and hardness of the shell, making it ideal for trade. There is also the option of putting an artificial tunnel inside the field. To which you can transfer babies around the middle of April. However, AGRIKULTURE TODAY recommends it when needed due to extreme climatic conditions. We generally do not recommend this plan due to the added cost, labor expenses, and potential losses when transporting snails out of the tunnel and into the park.
Reproduction Area for Snails
It is essential to get acquainted with snail anatomy to better take care of the snails. You will need an appropriate space to house the breeding snails, depending on the number. If you are looking to breed more than 5,000 snails, you must have 30 to 40 square meters. It is essential to create the perfect environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, light, and nutrition for snails to enjoy the ideal environment for reproduction.
The snail reproduction facility must be fitted with:
- A source of water to keep the proper humidity level.
- A source of light to give 16-hour hours of daylight to snails.
- Heating system to maintain the correct temperature.
- Ventilation holes to facilitate air circulation.
- Reproduction tables/shelves that allow reproduction to be carried out within them.
The best temperature for Helix aspersa snails is 21°C. The temperature should not be higher than 30°C as it will cause snails to enter an aestivation state, a state of inactivity, and a reduced metabolic rate.
The optimal humidity for snails is 80%. If the humidity is too high, it could cause their shells to fall off. Another vital aspect of the life of snails is light. A proper lighting system can increase the quality of snail reproduction manifolds. To regulate these elements, you can put in sensors and connect them to your phone to track the conditions of the snail farm at any moment and from any place.
You have to put up an enclosure in the breeding area that stops snails from roaming. In order to do this, we recommend building a little fence made up of stakes, aero fabric salt bar, or wood. The agrofabric is placed in the ground around 30 cm and then stretched across the structure. This can stop snails from going underneath and landing on the ground. You can place salt tablets on top of the fence. It will stop snails from getting out of the enclosure. You can plant plants to serve as food sources or shelter for the snails in the field.
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Input labor – Snail Farming
Snail farming is a time-consuming and labor-intensive job. A farmer who produces 10 tonnes of snails per year would work approximately 2,000 hours. This doesn’t include processing or commercialization. Monitoring snails’ nutrition, temperature, and humidity is the most time-consuming operation.
The mortality rate is highly variable. The mortality rate from egg to the final stage is approximately 20%. It can rise significantly if there are natural predators like birds, mice, or rats. Snail diseases are not common. However, parasites can be transmitted to snails by poor hygiene, overcrowding, or water pollution.
Hydration System for Snail Farming
If your snails live indoors, it is vital to provide water in their enclosure every day twice, during the day and in the evening. It is possible to change this depending on the conditions. If you are looking to reduce the process, you can use hanging sprinklers so that they provide better results than standing sprinklers. The irrigation companies typically perform projects in conjunction with buying their equipment, which means they can set up the hydration system.
Check for dry spots in the field where water may not be able to reach snails, for instance, when the winds are more robust. One suggestion is to create deep wells. However, you must select the appropriate pumping power to ensure that it’s not fragile for the number of sprinklers.
Snail Farming – Production cycle
There are four major stages in snail production.
Stage 1: January to March
Reproduction: Start-up snail farmers have the option to skip this step in their first year. This makes it easier for them to get started with snail farming. A one-acre area of stage four is required for breeding. The temperature at which the snails can mate is constant at 17°C. Additional lighting is needed to provide 16 hours of daylight and eight hours of darkness with the lights off. The breeding rooms have soil-covered pots that snails use to lay their eggs. A snail can lay up to 150 eggs. The ideal humidity ranges from 75% to 95%. These gastropod molluscs can be hermaphrodites. A hermaphrodite can be any organism with male and female reproductive organs that can produce eggs or spermatozoa. The eggs undergo a growth process inside the snail until they are ready for delivery after fertilization. Both snails then lay their eggs and bury them in separate locations in a small hole in the topsoil.
Incubation: The eggs are collected manually with a spoon and placed in an incubator chamber. The eggs are then placed in plastic containers that are kept at 20°C. After 15 days, the eggs will hatch.
The growth room: Baby snails are kept in a plastic tunnel, where they receive direct sunlight from the outside. This stage has a night temperature of 12°C. They will remain here for eight weeks.
Stage 4: May to September
Final growth: The snails are put into the field. One acre can house 1.2 million snails and 10 tonnes of snail meat. One-acre plots should be laid with tilted wooden supports such as pallets to protect the snails from any adverse weather conditions and allow dry food to be placed on top when they return to their homes at night. Galvanized sheets with an electric fence around the perimeter are used to keep the snails out. Birds and rats are also prevented from getting into the netting to eat the snails.
Harvesting of snails requires a lot of labor and can only be done manually. Then, the snails are purged and netted. They can then be exported. The breeding adults are then taken from the acre and placed into a hibernation area where they will spend the winter. They will then wake up in January to mating, resuming the cycle.
Tips for Snail Farming
- Ensure that the snails haven’t fled out, preferably early morning.
- Ensure an adequate level of humidity and temperature.
- Examine the fence’s condition to avoid snail escape and prevent rodents from entering the farm area.
- Ensure that the plants don’t get over the fence to avoid snails escaping.
- Rinse pastures with water, particularly prior to feeding. This will help to stop wind blowing.
- Feed snails by spreading food evenly on the pallets.
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Snail farming is an excellent option for anyone looking to start small-scale farming because it’s simple to create and does not require a significant investment.
This could be a lucrative hobby if you have the right snail farming plan for business and suitable equipment for farming snails. There’s a lot you need to learn, so you should be ready to learn from mistakes and, most importantly, be able to adapt to your snails.
Before you begin setting up the business of farming escargots, it is crucial to be prepared with some questions. The process of starting a business isn’t something you can do in a day, and the snail farming industry is the same. You must be prepared to work hard and effort.