If you are looking for an agribusiness to invest in and one that is highly profitable, in which you do not have to lose sleep over how to get working capital, your best bet might be snail farming. It can create jobs for the unemployed, underemployed, retired or serve as a means of extra income for anyone who dares to try it.
Snail farming, also called heliciculture or heliculture, is all about raising land snails for human consumption.
The consumption of snail meat is increasingly becoming popular among folks because of its nutritional and medicinal properties.
There are three main types of snails, the giant type called Archachantina, or another called Achatina Achatina, and the smaller ones. Apart from consumption, cultivating snails can give one a financial breakthrough.
Snails can be sourced from the bush as is done in most villages. In this case, all you need to do is go to the bush, spread baits such as decaying pineapple, pawpaw, banana leaves etc. At night, the snails would swoop on them to feed. Early in the morning, you go back to the bush to collect the snails. It will amaze you how many you would harvest.
Alternatively, you could go to their natural habitats such as the base of banana or plantain clusters to pick them. You could also go to the market to buy good species, especially the big ones. Similarly, you could go to an established farm to buy domesticated snails.
Unlike other livestock, snail rearing requires low capital, low labour and cheap food. Snails can go without food or water for up to six months.
You can earn foreign exchange from exporting snails. The risk rate is very low as well. It is a simple but very lucrative business any serious person can do.
Pen For Snails
You can construct the pen in several ways. You can construct a pen with wood and wire mesh or an enclosure built with blocks, galvanised steel sheets or fibre-cement sheets at your backyard, covered with nets or wire gauze to ward off predators.
You can construct cages or boxes for the pen. Plastic pots or flowerpots of about three inches deep filled with loamy soil can also do.
Some even use tyres to construct the pen. In this case you collect about four or five lorry tyres. Place one on top of the other to form a cylinder and on the last one place a net covering as a lid.
The spaces in the tyres will provide hiding places for the snails during the day when the weather is hot while the net will prevent them from escaping and protect them from pests.
If you want to do it on a large scale, you can use a plot of land or a half plot, as the case may be, to construct the pen for breeding.
The best soil for the pen is loamy soil that is not acidic or waterlogged. The soil should be at least two inches deep to enable the snails to lay eggs and keep them safe from ants, millipedes and other pests. Introduce earthworms to the soil to cleanse the soil.
Ensure that you plant plantains or bananas or small trees to protect the pen from the sun’s heat or from strong wind. Snails are very sensitive to light, vibration, noise or being touched by humans and other animals, so the pen should be built in a safe place.
Irregular feeding and unclean environment would adversely affect them. Temperature of the place should also be considered because they prefer places that are cool and damp, as dryness impedes their growth. Water should always be handy for sprinkling to moist the pen when it gets dry.
Guard Against Predators
The farmer must secure the pen with wire mesh and nets to ward off predators and pests such as snakes, lizards, birds, frogs, rats, flies, millipedes, centipedes.
Construct a gutter round the pen and fill it with insecticides, kerosene or used engine oil to scare ants. Keep the pen always clean and build a hatchery for the small ones to save them from the big ones.
In all, it is advisable for the beginner to go for training or consult an expert before starting the business to avoid waste of money and energy.
Snails can be fed with kitchen and organic wastes. However, care should be taken to ensure that the feeds do not contain salt or harmful chemicals. The feeds must be fresh, wet and distributed all over the pen to give them freedom of choice of what to eat. Fresh water should be available all the time to create moisture in the pen.
Avoid tap water or water treated with chlorine.
Snails feed and grow well on vegetables and fruits such as green paw-paw fruits and leaves, cassava leaves, banana and plantain leaves, waterleaves and fruits such as mangoes, palm fruit, garden egg, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, pineapple, beans and so on. The food should be replaced daily to avoid spoilage and maintain sanitary environment.
A snail has both male and female reproductive system and so it is called a hermaphrodite. However, they still need each other’s company to reproduce.
One can start with as few as two breeding snails and they can give you up to 120 eggs in one year. You can then imagine how many eggs you would get if you start with 500 to 1,000 breeding stock.