The definition of heliciculture, known also as snail farming, is raising snails for human use. It is recognized as a sub-category of agriculture – and is widely recognized as a very profitable and low-risk form of agriculture. Snails can either be used in gastronomy, cosmetics or as food for reptiles. Escargot shells can be sold for decoration purposes and more recently snail eggs are being produced to enjoy as a type of caviar.
Sometimes you may hear the term heliculture, which basically means the same as heliciculture – both terms refer to snail farming.
Eating snails dates all the way back to prehistoric times and in Roman times eating snails was perceived as a privilege reserved for the elite.
The most popular edible snail species are Helix pomatia, also known as the Roman snail, Burgundy snail or Apple snail, and Helix aspersa. The term Escagot usually refers to these two species and is also most commonly used in gastronomy. Sometimes these species are also called garden snail, but this term could also refer to many other snail species.
Helix pomatia (Roman snail, Apple snail, Escargot de Bourgogne/Burgundy snail, Gros blanc) can be found across Europe and USA. They live in vineyards, gardens, valleys and forested mountains up to 2000 metres (6600 feet). These snails can grow up to 45 mm across the shell, and together with their rich flavour the Helix pomatia species is very popular with foodies all over the world.
Helix aspersa (Cornu aspersum, Gros, gris, Petit gris, Small grey snail, The Escargot chagrine) is another species which is very popular with foodies. They live across Europe, USA, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and some parts of South America (Mexico, Argentina). Helix aspersa has a life span of 2 to 5 years and is mature when the shell measures 30 to 45 mm across. What is very special for Helix aspersa is they can adapt to almost any condition and climate, which is why Helix aspersa is so commonly considered as profitable farming. Helix aspersa can be found in sand dunes, forests, fields and gardens, which increases Helix aspersa’s range and makes farming them less risky.
There are two types of Helix aspersa snails:
- Helix aspersa maxima (Gros gris)
- Helix aspersa muller (Petit gris)
What size snails are ready for food consumption?
Edible snails range in size from one millimeter to 312 mm in length, which is the biggest snail species called Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica). Snail production of the largest snails means that they are usually sliced and canned to be ready for food consumption. Snail production of other species usually means that they are sold live, blanched or frozen.
Snail farming is a good choice for anyone who wishes to start small scale farming, because it is easy to set up, does not require huge investments and is not highly risky. With the right snail farming business plan and quality snail farming equipment this could be a very rewarding hobby. There is a lot to learn, so you need to be ready to read, learn from mistakes, and most importantly, adapt to your snails.
Before you embark on setting up your own business of escargot farming, you need to ask yourself some questions. Not to sound too harsh, but sometimes people think starting a business is like a walk in the park. They don’t realize the efforts and time you need to give to something that might not even work out in the end. They don’t know that your expectations might not come true and that there are no safety nets to land on when you mess up. These are some personal questions you need to ask yourself before starting your own business:
- Are you a self-starter?
You will need to have a very well–structured business plan and a very long list of tasks that need to be completed. You need to know what to do, how to do it and when to do it. When you are on your own, there is no one looking out for you and helping you do things. You need to be self-driven and take the initiative.
- Do you enjoy challenges?
There will be constant challenges running your own business. Are you prepared to take them and act on them? Challenges will bring changes, so you need to be resilient, agile and very adaptable.
- Are you a creative problem solver?
Do you often find yourself thriving when faced with a problem and there is little time to solve it? Or you simply enjoy the unknown and like to think about everything from a different perspective than what the ordinary expectation is? Then you have a very good chance of succeeding running your own business, as you will often be required to solve difficult problems in very little time. Using an “out of the boy” approach is very successful in these situations.
- Are you willing to accept failure?
Having your own business, failure is inevitable and it might be big or small. Whatever it is, you need to embrace it and accept it. Learn from it and more importantly, move on. Don’t let it soak in and torture you. Worrying has never resulted in anything good.
- Is this really something I am passionate about and will excite me?
Let’s face it – having you own business mean lots of work, hours, spending your family-time doing errands and necessary phone calls. If your business is not something you feel strongly passionate about then just don’t do it. Bottom line is if you don’t have the passion, you will not be engaged and motivated enough. And your business will not be successful.
- Do you have the humility and willingness to do it all?
When you are on your own you will have to also do the mundane tasks and the dirty jobs, that usually get taken care of when you are employed and have a very specific and narrow range of tasks. You will need to be very hands-on and simply do it.
- Will you miss the corporate environment and having people around?
If you have been in a corporate environment where you can casually interact with others all the time, share a lunch or meet in a conference room, you may find yourself feeling isolated at home. Feeling lonely might become a daily thing and you will need to learn how to accept this or find other ways to meet with people. Going for business networking events might be good for both your loneliness and also your business, so you will need to be open and approachable.
Read more on how to start Snail Farming in the Guide to Snail Farming.