Meet Tasos Ypsilantis, the owner of a snail farm in Larissa, Greece. His farm Agrofarma is the oldest snail farm in Greece and he is proud to be the market-leader of snail farming in Greece. He built his snail farm with the help of scientists and academics from Thessaly University and he continues to develop the range of snail products they offer. He is passionate about nature, snails and he grew his passion to become a family business which today exports snails to locations worldwide. Read his story on becoming an entrepreneur following his passion for snails!
Where did you get the idea to start snail farming?
Since my childhood we were always eating snails in our house, it is a part of the Greek culture. I then studied physics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and worked as a professor. After a few years I decided to get into agriculture and snail farming was a sector with not much competition and growth at the time. So I chose to set-up a snail farming business and I was the first person in Greece who worked professionally with snails. Year by year we continued to develop our business and today we are the leader in the Greek market.
Where is your snail farm located and how big is the farm?
My farm is located in Larissa, Greece (Central Greece), in a very natural area. An expert veterinarian supervises our farm and performs regular hygiene checks. Our farm covers 4000 square meters of special greenhouses. Also we have 500 square meters of warehouse, breeding room, refrigerated room, etc.
What are the most important things to consider when starting a snail farm?
In Greece the tradition was to eat snails that we collect from nature. These wild snails do not provide any guarantee for the consumer’s safety. Thus, in controlled greenhouse rearing, we place great importance on the cleanliness and hygiene of snails so that the final consumer can get the best quality. We also work with the University of Thessaly and the Ministry of Rural Development to create the best regulations for the development of snail farming.
How much time did your farm take to be built up and running?
We grew organically. I started in 2001 with 500 square meters and then after 3 years, in 2004, we grew to around 2000 square meters. Today we are proud to have a 4000 square meters large snail farm, and we have created new production lines for canned snails and snail caviar.
What are the biggest obstacles to successful snail farming?
There are many problems in various sections. Most serious, I think is the weather conditions, and hygiene of the farm. There is also a threat of competition from other countries, and the free collection of snails from nature, which is very common in Greek culture.
In what forms do you sell snails and where did you find your first buyers?
When we started we only offered fresh snails in air bags and plastic grates. Today we also produce canned snail meat in brine, canned snails in a traditional Mediterranean sauce, snail caviar, etc. Our first client was from the Greek farm market, and after a few years we found European clients via internet and Fairs. Today we export worldwide.
What does your typical day look like?
Work, work and work! Me and my wife both work on our snail farm every day in order to achieve continuous success.
What personal traits does a person need to start this venture and be successful?
In the early years I was faced with a lot of irony. It takes a lot of perseverance and patience to reach your goal. You also have to love snails and natural life.
Where did you learn both the business and technical side of snail farming?
I was the first person in Greece who worked professionally on snail farming. Our company “Agrofarma” is the oldest snail company in Greece. We collaborated with Thessaly University, which has very good scientists, and they taught me a lot about snails and how they live, grow and remain healthy.
Read more about Tasos and his Agrofarma here.
If you would like to start snail farming find more information on how to do this with the Guide to Snail Farming.