In the past, the only way to get snails was to go into the bush and gardens to hunt them after a rainfall or at night. This was because most people did not know that snails could be reared domestically just like poultry and animals like chickens and goat. Snail farming is a very interesting business not just because it’s a highly profitable business, but because it is easy and fun.
If you are thinking of how to start a snail farming business, then you have come to the right place. The first thing you should consider is the location and environment of your snail farm.
1. Location and environment of your snail farm
The best environment to situate your snail farm is a low plain, downhill site. The farm should not be exposed to excessive wind because too much wind would dry out and dehydrate your snails. It is best to have trees like banana or plantain planted around your snail farm.
Snails cannot be reared on concrete floors. The floor of your snailery must be made up of balanced soil, Soil that is not too dry and not waterlogged either. You should also make sure the soil of your snail farm is not acidic or clayey as this may be harmful to the snails.
The best soil for rearing snails is a sandy-loamy soil that has low water retention. The soil of your snail farm is highly critical to the growth and survival of the snails because snails derive calcium used for forming its shell from the soil. It also gets its water from the soil and lays its eggs on soil.
Depending on the scale of snail farming you want to go into, your snails can be reared in a large covered box if you are considering small scale snail farming, or in a concrete pen with soil flooring if you want to rear snails on a large scale.
The soil should be about 10 inches deep and you should use fresh leaves or wet clothes to control the temperature of your snailery. To protect your snails from predators and pests like snakes, rats and termites, you should make a barbed wire fence around your snail’s pen.
2. Learn everything you can about snails
Knowledge is an important requisite for success in business, whether it is snail farming of any other business. To become a successful snail farmer, you need to know the best conditions to breed snails, how they reproduce (snails are hermaphrodites), how they feed and factors that militate against their growth. In fact, you must know everything about snails.
3. Conduct feasibility study
After obtaining the needed knowledge about snails, you will to conduct market feasibility for your snail farm project. Some few questions a feasibility report will help you answer include:
- What are the factors militating against snail farming in Nigeria?
- How much capital is needed to setup a snail farm, stock it with snails and run it effectively?
- Where is the best place to site your farm and how close is it to the market?
- How much is a bag or basket of snail sold in your area?
- How long (months or years) will it take you to make your money back?
4. Prepare a business plan
After conducting feasibility study and writing a report about your findings, you will need to convert your feasibility report into a business plan. A business plan is important especially when it comes to seeking external funding from banks or investors. You will also need it to access government grants and loans. A business plan will also help you plan and execute your future growth strategy.
5. Sourcing for snails
You would need some snails to start up your snail farm and you must ensure that they are fertile and in perfect condition. The best place to source for your initial stock is in the bushes. Snails gotten directly from their natural habitat are in the best condition because they have not been exposed to too much sunlight which would dehydrate them and make them less fertile.
If you feel getting snails from the bush would be too much of a stress for you, then you can buy snail eggs from the market and cover them up with cocoyam leaves in a plastic bowl with wet sand in it and leave them to hatch.
The hatching process would take about 21-28 days then you can start feeding and taking care of your baby snails and watch your snails multiply in numbers because snails reproduce fast and in large numbers. Before you rush off to the market to get your snail eggs, you should know about the different species of snails and which ones are best for rearing.
The most suitable snail species for rearing are the Achatina Fulica, Achatina Achatina and the Archachatina Marginata but the Achatina Achatina is the most recommended for snail farming because of its high reproductive capacities. It can lay up to 500 eggs at once and lays eggs three times a year. The Achatina Achatina is also easy to find.
6. Snail feeding
Snails are very versatile feeders. They can feed on anything from leaves to fruits. Snails can feed on cocoyam leaves, cassava and okra leaves, cabbage, lettuce, pawpaw as well as eggplant leaves. Snails can also feed on fruits like mangoes, banana, pawpaw, tomatoes and pears.
It is important that you feed your snails with the right food that would support tissue growth and supply calcium needed to grow their shells. There are specially formulated snail feed in the market that you can use to feed your snails for improved growth and productivity.
7. Harvesting your snails
When harvesting your snails, it is important to handle them carefully. You can harvest them into clean plastic containers, baskets, bowls, or in a box to be carried to the point of sale. Do not overload the containers. 10 kg in each container is just okay so that the snails don’t get hurt or stressed.
8. Marketing your snails
There are different marketing opportunities for snail farmers. You can sell them to restaurants and hotels that have snail meat on their menu or sell to market men or women who will buy them in wholesale quantity from you. You can also process your snails for export to other countries.
Challenges of Starting Snail Farming in Nigeria
The opportunities in snail farming far outweigh its challenges / problems. Aside the challenges of raising capital, getting a good place to rear the snails, getting their feeds and marketing your snails; the only headache you may face is the issue of pests such as ants, termites, hawks, etc. Once your environment is properly fumigated, fenced and the top covered with wire mesh; you will have no problems at all. Snails rarely fall sick.
In conclusion, I want you to know that snail farming is a highly lucrative business guaranteed to bring you a huge source of income within a short period! Venture into it. I bet you won’t regret it!