BREEDING OF SNAILS: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO START ONE

Would you like to open a snail farm and you don’t know how?

With a little patience, here you will find a guide that will allow you to start your project.

 

THE BASIC KNOWLEDGE TO OPEN A SNAIL FARM

Snails, or helicides, comprise over 4,000 known breeds. But only a small part is able to live with the temperate climate of our country.

Snail farming , or heliciculture , has not been practiced for a long time.

But man has been eating them for millions of years.

Even in the cuisine of the Greeks and Latins, snail-based recipes were used.

And since then, snails, or rather, the organic substances they produce, were used as a remedy for numerous diseases due to their antibacterial properties.

However, only recently, there has been the rediscovery of their use in the pharmaceutical and aesthetic fields.

While the major development of heliciculture concerned the sector of snail breeding for gastronomic use. This is because almost all of the existing breeds are edible.

 

LET’S ANALYZE THE ANATOMY OF SNAILS

They consist of:

  • a foot, which is the part of the body that touches the ground, through which the mollusk crawls on the ground.
  • Four aerial tentacles, two of which ending with the eyes and two functioning as sense organs.
  • A mouth, between the two tactile tentacles, which serves to feed and from which the eggs emerge.
  • The tongue, contained in the mouth, to which the shell, or conch, produced by the slime of the snail itself attaches. The shell serves to protect the animal and to reduce the evaporation of water from the body during hibernation.
  • Internal organs just like any other animal, such as heart, lungs etc. The snails are of the hermaphrodite genus, with male and female genital organs. And the undeniable advantage that, after mating, both subjects lay eggs.

 

WHY START A SNAIL FARM?

Before moving on to the practical explanations, let’s see why you should start a snail farm.

Still not very widespread, heliciculture has become one of the new agricultural businesses.

It is one of the easiest and most profitable farms and this has also led to strong growth in the sector.

In addition to the fact that the market has understood the potential of snails, including investors, but it is far from the level of saturation.

This means that investors are keen to put their capital on the line.

But you will still have enough room left to avoid having to face fierce competition from competitors, with the price game to the downside.

But don’t think it’s a novelty in recent years.

Born in the early 1970s, from a little-known filling activity, it has become a real agricultural activity.

Increasingly widespread and practiced, its profitability has always been growing.

 

THIS NICE ANIMAL IS A SYMBOL OF SLOWNESS AND PRUDENCE

Thanks to the late Luis Sepulveda, the snail has also become an icon of wisdom and knowledge of the value of time running away.

The snail has great properties: in addition to being a refined food for connoisseurs, it is also a source of raw material for medicines and cosmetics.

In fact, its slime has anti-inflammatory and anti-wrinkle properties.

The snail does not pollute, it is rich in proteins with a minimum percentage of fat.

Keep in mind that one serving contains less than 2% fat. And it’s completely cholesterol-free, but with a good dose of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Above all, it is the emblem of a virtuous circle that does not destroy the environment.

 

NO WASTE, EVERYTHING IS TRANSFORMED AND NOTHING GOES

An eco-sustainable cycle which, by making peace with nature, rightfully becomes an ethical investment.

Despite the large numbers, 80% of the snails consumed in our country come from abroad. And these are harvested shellfish, not farmed.

A substantial difference, because we do not know the type of soil on which they lived, the age and their type of diet of the collection snails.

These are factors that greatly affect the taste of the product. The farmed snail has a softer meat and a defined flavor, thanks to the type of diet chosen.

THE NUT FIGURES IN THE MENU OF MANY RESTAURANTS

But the driving force behind a further impetus to its diffusion was the interest of pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies in drool.

The Ministry of Health, in a circular of 2016, defines it as “snail mucus”. It has antibacterial, anti-wrinkle, moisturizing, soothing and regenerating properties.

The drool is extracted from the mollusc with a machine, the Muller One , specifically designed not to cause suffering.

A tool that allows the animal to continue living and reproducing.

 

HELICULTURE IN ITALY AND BUSINESS TURNOVER IN 2019

Heliciculture is a market that has not been affected by the crisis and that offers advantageous investment opportunities.

Just think that the turnover around the snail business in Italy is about 300 million euros. And there are about 1000 Italian companies that are dedicated to it and are in excellent health.

 

THE NUMBERS OF HELICULTURE IN ITALY IN 2019

  • over 10,000 farms in Italy on over 9,000 hectares of land.
  • 9200 workers employed (between direct and induced).
  • + 320% consumption in 10 years which amounted to 40000 tons per year (from 2010 to the end of 2019) and most of it is imported from abroad.
  • Price increase per kilo for wholesale snails from 3 to 5 Euros.

The data were disseminated by ANE, the main association of helicopters, and by Coldiretti.

According to a survey by the latter, one in two Italians appreciate snails. And consumption, from a nutritional point of view, is particularly suitable for those who must follow a diet free of fat.

Snail farms that are able to satisfy less than half of the internal demand, are springing up almost everywhere in the beautiful country.

And they are appreciated for the innovation capacity, quality and specific characteristics of the Made in Italy product.

Imports – Coldiretti specifies – come mainly from French processing industries.

Their factories in Turkey and especially in North Africa export canned snails all over the world with the famous name of “escargot”.

 

FROM SPONTANEOUS HARVESTING TO SNAIL BREEDING

From the spontaneous collection, still assiduous in some realities of our peninsula, we have passed to specialized breeding.

The snail – underlines Coldiretti – is not only good stewed, grilled or bourguignonne.

In fact, in Italy, alongside the more traditional offer, we have moved on to the production of increasingly refined specialties. From salami to liqueur to snail caviar.

A delicacy consisting of pearly eggs with a delicate delicate scent of undergrowth, oak leaves and mushrooms.

They have antioxidant and even aphrodisiac capabilities, and can cost 100 euros for a 50 gram pack.

The real boom explodes – always notes Coldiretti – in cosmetics with the famous snail slime, in gel or cream.

She is the real star of beauty treatments because she is able to moisturize and decongest the skin, fight free radicals and stimulate cell proliferation.

 

NATURAL ANTIBIOTIC

But not only that, it would be a real natural antibiotic against acne and other impurities.

In its composition, the cream includes, among other things, the most common collagen that helps maintain the tone of the tissues.

Due to its characteristics, the cream based on snail slime concentrate promises to soften stretch marks. In addition to removing acne, reducing scars and combating wrinkles.

So much so that, in the face of the Coronavirus emergency, the International Institute of Heliciculture of Cherasco made a particular donation.

It is a supply of snail slime spray to health workers in some local hospitals who are forced to wear masks for a long time.

“Prolonged use of this device – explains Simone Sampò, president of the Institute – causes skin redness, irritation and chapping. Snail slime in its spray version, the one with the highest concentration, can be the remedy to avoid these problems “.

The application of the spray burr, before putting on the mask, allows you to protect the skin by enhancing its filmic power.

While the immediate subsequent use allows you to take advantage of its healing, regenerating and soothing characteristics.

SNAIL SLIME IS A TOCCASANA

In Sicily there is the largest breeding in Italy, but they are also numerous in Tuscany and especially in Piedmont.

Lazio, in particular, is the region where more farms are starting up in the last year.

The consumption of snails has grown by 320% in 10 years, reaching 44,000 tons in 2014. A figure equal to at least double the consumption recorded in the previous 15 years.

The regions where the consumption of snails is higher are: Sardinia, Puglia, Sicily, Piedmont and Veneto.

In addition, the cost of snails has increased by 66% in 10 years, from 3 to 5 Euros (wholesale price per kilo).

There is currently no national legislation regulating heliciculture.

It is an agricultural activity which, together with the farming techniques, requires particular care.

From the wellbeing of vegetables and animals, to attacks by insects and predators that can lead to high mortality.

But attention must also be paid to the selection and purging which are the most important phases.

 

A PROFITABLE BUSINESS

A single person – specifies Coldiretti – can manage a 5000 square meter plant with an average production of 4-5 tons per year.

Numerous factors make the snail business profitable . And, all in all, they are businesses that don’t require a high start-up cost.

Keep in mind that a farm of the size of one hectare, with an initial investment of about 30,000 euros and an average commitment of 18 hours per week, can lead to an annual turnover of over 70,000 euros.

Thus, in a year, a grower manages to earn more than double his initial investment. This also happens in the case of small farms.

It is in fact possible to start small and very small snail farms, even at home with a few thousand or even hundreds of euros.

But, in this case, to maintain a high profit margin, you will have to consider retail only. Therefore your work commitment will inevitably be higher.

And, as in any entrepreneurial activity, method and awareness are needed to manage all organizational aspects.

You will have to choose the winning strategies and first understand how this particular market works, get to know your potential customers and competitors.

 

HOW TO START YOUR SNAIL FARM

What does the future entrepreneur need to open a company specialized in heliciculture?

The most common method of farming is outdoor on open ground.

Before starting a snail farm, study the product and the market in depth through proper training by following specialized courses.

There are all kinds of them almost everywhere in farms which then also resell products.

Like, for example, Ambra Cantoni’s “La Lumaca” breeding, a twenty-year-old company that follows a 100% natural Italian method.

And that organizes, every year from the beginning of October until December, for a few euros that will be discounted on any purchases, the National Heliciculture Meetings.

Study days in which all topics from A to Z are covered. And, moreover, you can get in touch with breeders from all backgrounds.

The Cherasco Institute of Heliciculture successfully presents a series of courses-meetings also in streaming. You can visit their website or contact them directly by writing to  info@istitutodielicicoltura.com

If you own a house with a plot of land, you can raise snails indoors using the surrounding land.

 

IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED TO RAISE SNAILS AT HOME, IN A GREENHOUSE OR IN A CLIMATE SHED

Firstly, because the snail raised in a closed place needs much more care for cleaning and nourishment.

And then because, being the production times quite long (between 12 and 18 months), it requires a high use of labor.

Finally, the meat, in the absence of sunlight, remains not very consistent and when cooked it loses a high percentage of weight.

Among the outdoor systems, the one recognized as the best is the full biological cycle system.

Breeding snails are placed in the breeding enclosure to make them mate. After that, both subjects of the couple are able to lay eggs.

The larvae born from breeding snails (about 15/20 specimens per breeding snail) will then be fattened in special enclosures and finally sold.

The release of breeding snails will take place only in the first year of activity, while, in the following years, you will be able to use specimens from your own farm.

In our country, two models have gradually established themselves, that of the National Institute of Cherasco , and that of the Madonita breeding in Sicily .

They differ in a different location of the snails in the enclosures and a consequent diversification of collection times.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO START A SNAIL FARM

So, we said first: the ground.

If you don’t own land, you will need to buy it or rent agricultural land.

Not a big deal, the parcels of land that cannot be built today have a very low market value. And farm rents are affordable.

Alternatively, you can turn to those who are satisfied with the maintenance of the fund and in exchange grants the land on a free loan.

Two characteristics are essential: good soil and water.

The soil must be rather humid but free from rotting or excessively watered areas.

Flat areas or areas with a slight slope are preferable, it is important that they are well sunny

Even with the due presence of shaded areas to allow snails to cool off, hydrate and feed.

From a chemical point of view, soils rich in calcium carbonate are preferable. Limestone favors the formation of the shell, therefore its percentage will be between 4 and 15% of the soil.

 

THE FEATURES OF THE SOIL MUST BE SELECTED ACCORDING TO THE SPECIES YOU WILL DECIDE TO BREED

There are, in fact, some species such as Helix Aspersa and Helix Nemoralis that are able to live and proliferate in various environments.

While others turn out to be more delicate and you will have to take this into account.

Due to the size of the plot where you will raise your snails, there are all proportions. From 1.000 sqm up to 50.000 sqm.

The choice will depend on both the resources you have available and the amount of time you want to dedicate to your cultivation.

We must pay attention to the climate. Excellent exposure to sunlight, but with temperatures not exceeding 30 ° C.

Strong winds could be the enemy of your snails, so go for sheltered areas.

You will have to protect your animals from damage caused by toxic substances used in agriculture. The perimeter fence therefore becomes indispensable.

Better to opt for a barrier in smooth sheet metal, with a thickness between 3 and 10 mm, at least 70 cm high to block the escape of your snails.

Plus a remaining part of 40 cm planted on the ground to discourage access to moles and other rodents as well as predators such as mice and reptiles.

The sheet metal must be smooth to prevent the climbing of dangerous insects such as staphyllus and sylph which, having sclerified wings, cannot fly.

Alternatively, you can use glass-fiber reinforced plastic panels or two-meter high metal meshes, buried for about 20 or 30 cm.

They will need to be slightly electrified (4 or 6 Joules of power maximum) to deter runaway snails from leaving the area.

 

FENCES ARE FUNDAMENTAL

Internal enclosures will also be needed to divide the farm into various zones. There are usually two types of areas in which a land snail farm is divided.

That is, areas for breeding snails, intended for the reproduction of molluscs that occupy about one third of the surface.

In addition to areas intended for fattening snails, which will extend for at least 2/3 of the total area.

Between the fences you will need to create weeded passage areas of about 1 meter to allow service maneuvers.

As fencing nets, it is advisable to use nets with one or two non-toxic polyethylene flounces at least 105/110 cm high.

The most common are the Helitex (with two flounces) or the Spiranet (with one flounce).

They are specially patented to discourage the escape of snails and the invasions of unwanted guests such as insects or birds.

 

THE IRRIGATION SYSTEM IS ESSENTIAL TO HYDRATE THE SOIL AND THE PLANTS THAT THE NUTS WILL EAT

You also need to get some tools, a lawn mower or a brush cutter. And a digging machine, as well as a tiller, but on larger plots you will definitely need a rotary tiller, to be connected to a small tractor.

In addition to useful tools for soil care such as rakes, spades, sickles and shears, an agricultural trailer may be useful. It must be connected to the tractor to move the snail boxes during the harvest.

You must also provide for standard equipment and furnishings for the office or small warehouse. Such as phones, cell phones, computers, printers, software.

And, if you decide to make direct sales in the company, scale and cash register.

Finally, you will need wooden crates or raffia bags to transport your snails, wooden or plastic cages for purging. You can’t do without cold rooms of various sizes either because they are essential for storing snails after harvesting.

 

WILL YOU NEED STAFF FOR HELICULTURE?

In addition to facilities, equipment and raw materials, it is sometimes necessary to have qualified personnel. It depends on the extent of the farm.

The start-up of a helicopter company could also be compatible with the performance of another activity, since the weekly working hours for plots of less than one hectare are, on average, 18.

So, for a small farm you can manage yourself, saving on labor. But, as the size increases, you will need collaborators.

WHICH RAW MATERIALS YOU HAVE TO BUY

Having arranged the land in this way and procured the tools, let’s see which raw materials will be needed for the first year of activity:

1) Reproductive snails (about 20/25 subjects per square meter).

That is, the first snails that mating will produce the eggs destined to become the molluscs of future commercialization.

After the first year, for the reproduction of snails you can use specimens from your own breeding, taking them from different enclosures to reduce inbreeding.

2) Feed and seeds.

The seeds, there are organic ones for snails, are used to grow the plants in the enclosures where to fatten the snails to feed them with fresh plants and vegetables .

Suitable: chard, cabbage, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, wild fennel, radicchio, sunflower.

And also aromatic plants such as rosemary, mint, sage, oregano and carrots. In addition to plants aimed only at protection  from heat or cold (the most used is clover).

3) Fertilizers, pest control and rodent control. Fertilizers serve to make the soil rich in nutrients and minerals.

While pesticides are used to eliminate insects and parasites that can harm plants and the snails themselves.

Finally, the rodents are used to keep away rats, mice, moles and other rodents that eat snails.

Since these are chemicals, before placing the snails in the disinfested or deratted soil, you will have to observe a period of reclamation.

 

WHAT ARE THE BREEDS OF EDIBLE SNAILS

In the market you will find the finest snails, to be consumed fresh, usually small in size. They have tender meats suitable for sale in restaurants and shops at a significant price.

In addition to larger snails, less tasty but also more resistant, to be sold to the canning industry for the preparation of sauces and ready meals.

The choice directs the marketing of your animals and determines your earning possibilities.

The Helix Aspersa Muller type is the most widespread in Mediterranean countries and in Italian farms. It is also liked by French breeders and is the only one that can also be grown indoors. It prefers a mild climate, but fits almost everywhere. Also known as “Zigrinata”, “Maruzza”, “Ligurian snail” reproduces easily (about 120 eggs per year)

Helix Aspersa Maxima : much less common because it is used less in the kitchen. It prefers hilly and mundane climates and weighs over 20/25 grams.

One of the most imported species in Italy is the Helix Pomatia : it conquers many palates. But now it is less common because other species are more profitable because they reproduce in less time. It loves soils rich in calcium carbonate, in areas sheltered from the wind and at not too high temperatures. They also call it Vignaiola Bianca for the color of the meat. Its sturdy shell is also used to decorate dishes.

 

OTHER TYPES DIFFUSED IN ITALY

Helix Lucorum : it is grown mainly in central Italy and is very widespread in Emilia Romagna. The low quality of its meat makes it suitable for preserved products. It is not particularly profitable. It grows everywhere and is also known as the Vignaiola Scura. Its shell has a rounded shape.

The Helix Aperta is very common in Puglia, Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia . It sells at a high price but is in little demand from other markets and is not suitable for the canning industry because its shell is particularly fragile. This snail prefers a milder climate and is also called Monachella or Cozza di Terra. Its size barely reaches 10 grams but its meat is very tasty.

Eobania Vermiculata : it is not very widespread in Italy because the survival rate of the larvae is low and the proceeds from the sale are not attractive. It is mainly sold in shops and markets, coming from spontaneous harvesting. Its habitat is mainly the coastal area of ​​Tuscany, Lazio and the islands. There they also call it Rigatella because of the streaks of the shell. It is the smallest edible snail, weighing only about 8 grams.

 

THE LUMACHELLA OR BOVOLO

Helix (Theba) Pisana : also known as Lumachella or Bovolo, it is bred mainly in Sicily and Sardinia. It reproduces very easily and better in dune places or near rivers. Its sturdy white shell, with dark streaks, conceals a pale flesh.

The Helix (Cepaea) Nemorali is found almost exclusively in central and northern Italy . He loves cultivated and plant-rich environments such as woods, gardens and vegetable gardens. The peristome is dark but the shell has different colors, such as pink, yellow or brown, depending on where it lives.

 

DIFFERENT HABITATS

Helix (Cepaea) Hortensis : like the previous one, it loves the same habitats but is smaller and the edge of the shell is white.

Helix Naticoides is often found in the south and on the islands because it loves a particularly mild climate. During the summer it hides in holes in the clay soils where it lives, so it is available for sale during the autumn. In Sicily it is used a lot in the kitchen, calling it Attuppateddi.

Achatina Fulica : exotic snail that is winning the interest of Italian breeders. It has a brown and tapered shell, with clear bands and it reproduces a lot, to the point of being classified among the invasive species. It comes from East Africa so it loves a hot and humid type of climate. Rather small than the others of the same family, it is preferable to eat it cooked because it does not have a very refined taste.

At this point you will have an idea of ​​the type or types of snail to breed. So all you have to do is prepare the ground and stock up on breeding snails to kickstart your profitable breeding!

THE REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY FOR THIS TYPE OF ACTIVITY

Let’s start with some bureaucracy right away.

To start a snail farm you need to:

  • register with the Agricultural Enterprise Register at the Chamber of Commerce
  • Open VAT number .
  • Subscribe to Inps and Inail.
  • In case, in addition to the breeding, you also sell the products to the public you must obtain the HACCP certificate (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). And the sanitary authorization issued by the competent ASL.

Fortunately, today, between ComUnica and the flat-rate scheme, it has become easier, faster and more convenient to open a business.

The ComUnica tool, which is mandatory, allows you to electronically send all the information of the company and the entity that constitutes it.

Tax information to the Inland Revenue, social security to INPS and insurance to Inail, through special software called ComunicaStarweb “ComUnica”.

You can find it on the official website of the Business Register.

Using this tool today it is possible to open a business and a VAT number at no cost and online. The only expenses to be incurred are the administration fees and the stamp duty.

 

THE PRESENTATION OF THE REQUEST FOR OPENING THE VAT NUMBER IS THE MOMENT IN WHICH TO DECLARE THE CHOSEN ACCOUNTING SYSTEM TO THE TAX

Therefore, to access the flat-rate scheme and take advantage of the substitute tax of 15%, at 5% for the first 5 years for start-ups, it is necessary to have the necessary requirements already on the date of the opening application.

To start a snail farm, no specialization or experience is required. But, having information and having taken courses will always be very useful. You have to cultivate passion and interest.

You will build your professionalism by learning from those who already work in the sector and know the cultivation methods.

You will need to update your skills by reading specialized magazines, visiting trade shows and exhibitions and forging relationships with other manufacturers.

It is advisable to visit the website of the International Institute of Heliciculture and it is advisable to register with the ANE – National Association of Helicicultures.

The ANE groups together the heliciculturists in Italy who practice complete natural cycle breeding and the only one recognized by the Italian Breeders Association.

 

WHAT IS THE TARGET OF THE CUSTOMERS OF A SNAIL FARM?

It is vitally important to identify the customer target of the future business, especially if you intend to apply for a loan.

There are several ways to get started with networking.

Like through direct online sales, a channel that can reach many customers: online marketing can be the optimal strategy.

Think, for example, about creating a website.

It is worth investing in this sector to choose professionals who know how to correctly structure and position your web page within search engines.

In addition to making adequate use of social networks, especially Facebook, perhaps creating a page to sponsor.

If you intend to focus on direct offline sales, here is to indulge yourself, you can participate in local markets, village festivals, specialist fairs.

In addition to making yourself known, you will be able to compare yourself with your competitors to study something in which to differentiate yourself.

Remember the  Verona Agricultural Fair , the most important event in the sector which is usually held in February. And that dedicates an important space to heliciculture.

Select shops and supermarkets, especially small / medium-sized ones that are very often willing to buy from local farmers.

Contact consortia of producers and wholesalers to fish and fruit and vegetable markets. Once the sale price has been decided, it will be useful to compile more price lists, based on the reference customers.

Contact the cosmetic companies. the cosmetics sector has focused its spotlight on snail slime, because it has proved to be an excellent anti-wrinkle remedy.

 

ACCORDING TO THE CHOSEN SALES CHANNEL, THE TYPE OF PRODUCT REQUIRED CHANGES BETWEEN LIVE, FROZEN OR BOXED SNAILS

In direct sales, for example, the interest is almost exclusively for fresh snails already purged.

With the exception of the large fruit and vegetable markets and food fairs, where there is also attention to the pre-processed product.

Remember that shops, supermarkets and shops selling typical products, as well as live snails, are increasingly looking for derived food products.

Like snail pate or ready-made sauces: then it will be good to pay attention to a packaging that makes your company brand recognizable.

Also, why not sell your breeding snails to other breeders?

 

WHO ARE YOUR COMPETITORS?

They are essentially three:

  • other snail farmers.
  • Foreign importers.
  • Free binders.

We have already seen how in recent years the farms dedicated to heliciculture have increased both in quantity and in size.

A significant increase, so much so that today the average plot of a snail farm is around 8,000 square meters. with the highest concentration in the North.

It goes without saying, therefore, that your main competitors identify themselves with other snail farmers.

Even today, even with the increase in “local” production, snails continue to be purchased in large majority from foreign importers.

From those countries, that is, where labor costs much less than here and can offer a lower price.

Also because they are often snails collected in nature, without the costs of a breeding.

Another market complication is free snail pickers.

These undeclared activities escape the tax authorities and are therefore difficult to quantify. And it’s hard to understand how disruptive they can be to your business.

Check with prospective customers if there are illegal collectors in your area.

 

WHAT YOU MUST DO BEFORE SELLING SNAILS

Once you’ve grown your new snails, you’ll need to do three things before selling them:

  • collection
  • purging
  • packaging of snails.

The collection is carried out by taking the live snails from the feeding enclosure, with the hands or by means of sheets of paper or cork on which they will attach themselves spontaneously.

It will be necessary to thin out the plants grown in the enclosure and pay close attention to the operation.

Your mollusks have a very fragile body and shell and there is a risk of damaging or killing them.

The harvest takes place from April to September (October for those sealed). Or in March and October / November according to the Madonita method.

Although, you could potentially harvest your snails every month of the year, as long as the shells are tough enough to handle.

 

THE PURGE PHASE

After the collection, we move on to the purging phase. Snails must be cleaned of organic residues and moisture.

They must be placed in wooden or plastic crates in the shade and fasting for about ten days to be sure that the entrails are clean.

Snails lose weight and especially moisture, which allows them to last longer after sale.

Once the purging is completed, the dead or too small animals are discarded.

Those selected will be stored until sale in a cool and airy environment.

Or in cold rooms with the temperature never higher than 6 ° C.

Always remember that snails must be alive at the time of sale.

The last phase involves the packaging of the land snails.

You will store them in rather large wooden or waxed cardboard crates intended for wholesale.

While you will prefer raffia bags, nets or plastic crates, for retail stores and restaurants.

HOW TO DETERMINE THE RIGHT PRICE

Some species of snails, such as Helix Pomatia, have a lower market value because they are more widespread and treated.

Less traded species can be traded for a higher price.

In general, direct sales on the farm and sales to restaurants and retail stores allow the farmer to apply a higher price.

Obviously, provided that the quality standard of its product is maintained.

Instead, you will have to apply lower prices to wholesalers and fruit and vegetable markets where, usually, the bargaining concerns large stocks of product.

It is essential to identify the right exchange price for both fresh and preserved or processed products (ready-made sauces or snail paté).

Know that, normally, the processed product has a price 5 times higher than that of live snails.

 

PROMOTION AND MARKETING STRATEGIES

Also in this case we think based on size and budget.

A small snail farmer, without big capital, will take advantage of free marketing tools.

For example, word of mouth, registration on industry websites and participation in fairs, festivals and village festivals.

Places where the presence of a stand can offer free tastings and distribute information material.

A medium-sized breeder will be able to go into more complex initiatives, such as the publication of advertisements in local newspapers.

A snail farmer, with a large company and high availability, will be able to invest by buying space on the printed paper in specialized magazines.

Or it will create commercials for radio or television broadcasters.

These are all valid promotional methods, such as making advertising signs in places of commercial and tourist interest.

 

PARTICIPATE IN FAIRS

With an adequate budget it could participate in a  food fair  of regional or national importance.

In general, the membership fees for these events, to which the cost for setting up the stand must be added, are prohibitive for a small and medium breeder.

But they could be evaluated by a larger breeder, interested in making themselves known outside their territory.

Membership in one of the trade associations will allow the development of synergies with which to shape shared promotional initiatives.

Finally, you mustn’t underestimate web marketing and social media marketing strategies.

Even though the heliciculture sector is low in innovation, it doesn’t mean that you can make the most of the new technologies applied to marketing!

Having a website as well as a Facebook page would help you increase your visibility probably more and better than the previous strategies.

Watch out for sites and blogs where we talk about typical products and agriculture. Try to activate campaigns on Google Adwords  , the ideal tool to increase the visibility of your product on the net. And study if it can help you organize a form of e-commerce.

START-UP COSTS

Usually, when it comes to costs, they are sore points. Instead, in this case, it is one more reason to favor this choice. Compared to the profit, the initial capital is relatively low.

Retail costs are obviously an estimate, but accurate enough to make the appropriate considerations.

For about 10,000 square meters of land you have to buy:

  • Fencing: with an estimated cost of 15,000 euros, it is one of the most important aspects for breeding, because it serves to protect snails.
  • Disinfectants: around € 1,000.
  • Plants: particular species that to feed the snails, about 1,000 euros.
  • Brood snails: estimated cost around 10,000 euros. At least 50,000 will be needed.
  • Opening of VAT number, bureaucracy and accountant: about 2,000 euros. But remember the trade associations and accountants who resolve cases via Skype connections.

Therefore, with an investment of just under 30,000 euros, you have the opportunity to start your farm in the best possible way.

Of course, to this you will have to add the cost of the land. Assuming you do not already have one, difficult to estimate because it varies from area to area and according to multiple factors.

 

SOME WAYS OF OBTAINING START-UP FUNDS

While the investment required to start a snail farm is quite affordable, you may still not have that amount.

There are usually two channels to access credit: banks and non-repayable loans.

In the first case, given the benevolent attention of investors towards heliciculture, what you need are adequate guarantees.

And, if you have them, you shouldn’t have any problems getting the desired credit.

In the second case, special concessions are provided for this sector, in the form of incentives from both Europe and some Regions.

Regarding the discourse of concessions, know that if you fall into the categories considered “disadvantaged”, you will certainly have a preferential channel in accessing credit.

Among these we find women, young people and residents in the regions of Southern Italy. For some time also the Northern regions have begun to show attention to the sector and to grant concessions in this sense.

In addition to non-repayable loans, take a look at the Invitalia project and the Business Bonus.

The RDP, that is the Rural Development Plan, has provided for a series of economic benefits for the years from 2014 to 2020. So of loans, in which a portion is non-repayable. And the remainder is granted in the form of a subsidized loan.

In this case, the RDP has provided for a non-repayable share that starts from 60% of the capital obtained, up to 80% in some regions with a strong agricultural vocation but economically disadvantaged.

This really interesting factor could also be included in the reasons for starting a snail farm.

REGIONAL FACILITIES

Depending on the region in which you reside or in which you have decided to locate your kennel, the relevant website should be consulted.

Here are published the calls with the relative allocations and the requirements to obtain them, because these are aspects that vary according to the geographical area of ​​belonging.

The regions that are showing particular attention to the sector are Campania, Lombardy, Sardinia and Piedmont.

CAMPANIA

Two measures to facilitate the start of a heliciculture business.

The first is to support investments in farms with the aim of improving their competitiveness and profitability.

There are some eligible expenses, including those to purchase new equipment, machinery, patents, and more.

The second measure envisages investments for generational turnover, where young farmers are obviously helped to settle in the territory with their activities.

To benefit from this contribution, you must not be over 40 years old.

LOMBARDY

The notice of incentives is intended for young people who decide to start a business, such as heliciculture, and is in the form of a prize. The amount of this premium is € 30,000 if you decide to locate your farm in mountain areas, which are considered disadvantaged. Or 20,000 euros in other areas, and is paid in two installments.

SARDINIA

The regional RDP provides for more funding to be accessed.

Those destined for the agricultural sector, therefore also for snail farms, allocate capital funds up to 60% of the eligible expenses in disadvantaged areas.

And up to 40% for the others, percentages that rise to 70% and 50% respectively in the case of benefits for young people.

But the attention that the Sardinia region shows towards the sector does not end here. In fact, a maximum loan of 3,000 euros is envisaged to cover the costs of obtaining quality certifications, such as PDO and PGI.

This is a significant fact that should make you reflect on the real opportunities in the sector.

You are not given a “hand” only to start your business, but also to improve its quality standards.

The measures made available by the Sardinia region do not end here, for this reason we refer you to the official website.

PIEDMONT

In this case, the measures envisaged aim at increasing the sustainability and profitability of agricultural enterprises, including those of heliciculture.

As in other regions, generational turnover tends to be preferred, reserving a large part of the funds for people aged between 18 and 40.

The amount covered by the benefits covers up to 40% of the eligible expenses.

As you may have guessed, it is impossible to deal in a few lines with the multitude of concessions and non-repayable loans that Europe and the Regions grant.

For this reason, the first step you will have to take is obviously to consult the website of your home region.

 

HOW TO OBTAIN LOST FUND FINANCING

Also in this case, the procedures for accessing non-repayable loans vary according to the region. But there are some points in common.

Essential for all is the presentation of a project, therefore a business plan, obviously convincing.

Before starting and managing a snail farm, a good and advisable practice is to take specialized courses. In order to obtain proper training and information.

The business plan will have to foresee how to improve the yield of snails, how to use less water, how to use less soil. And then how to produce snails at any time of the year.

It will also have to contain forecasts on costs, sales, marketing strategies, the break-even point and all those items that will serve to indicate your goals and how you intend to achieve them.

You will need to identify the target market you want to target, how and where to find it, and how you intend to communicate with your future customers.

 

HOW TO ACCESS INCENTIVES

Do you intend to invest your future in the snail farming sector because it is growing strongly?

We summarize the main points to access non-repayable loans and start a new heliciculture business.

Who can access the incentives?

  • Young people under 36 or 40, unemployed, women and residents in some regions of Italy who want to start the business, both as a start-up and as a micro-enterprise.
  • Companies already started, but located in disadvantaged territories. A page to refer to to find the details of the individual calls, based on the category to which they belong, is  invitalia.it

The agency owned by the Ministry of Economy has the specific task of managing state incentives for development.

On the Invitalia website, you will find all the information relating to non-repayable loans.

Furthermore, you will be able to download all the documentation necessary to access it and submit the application correctly.

 

THE EARNINGS OF A SNAIL FARM

Now you know how to start a snail farm, but you will want to know how to make money from this business.

In heliciculture, earnings come mainly from the sale of purged and packaged snails.

However, you could add services for both consumers and other breeders.

In addition, in addition to the sale of live snails, you could offer them preserved and frozen, or beautifully cooked.

Finally, you could enrich your proposal with derivative products, such as snail caviar.

Or ready-made sauces and other snail-based condiments. And specialties such as snail pate, made by mixing the most succulent points of snail meat with other ingredients.

Such as, for example, legumes, spices or vegetables, using not only meat but also other elements such as eggs or drool.

 

DIFFERENTIATING ENSURES YOU REVENUES EVEN IN THE PERIODS WHEN YOU CANNOT COLLECT THE NUTS

And we cannot forget the medical-aesthetic properties of the burr. But who to sell it to?

You can prepare cough syrups and cosmetic creams, because it is rich in polysaccharides, glycolic acid, collagen, elastin and vitamin E.

A special machine we have already mentioned is used to extract the secretions, patented at the National Institute of Cherasco.

It does not cause any damage to the animal which can therefore be reintroduced into cultivation (MullerOne – International Institute of Heliciculture of Cherasco).

You can also sell snails as mares to other breeders, also to avoid the problem of inbreeding in pens.

And organize tastings within your breeding, real workshops. Or even training courses for people eager to learn how to start a snail farm, just like you.

 

CONCLUSIONS

After everything you’ve read, are you convinced that this is a particularly interesting business?

We really think it is and you may have decided to start a snail farm, after visiting the specialized websites and blogs of the sector.

You will have had further confirmation on how attractive this activity is by participating in some meetings. Or by attending some training course.

And then you also discovered that there are regional concessions.

At this point you just have to make an effective business plan, according to your financial availability. And identify the right ground to start it.

According to these last two factors you will decide what type of snails to breed, if you will work alone or in company and how much time to dedicate to breeding.

These are choices that will determine not only your starting project but also your earnings based on your sales strategies.

As you understand from this guide, the industry is very vibrant and there is no shortage of sources for information and help.

So, gather all the courage and enthusiasm you have and get to work!

 

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