Heliciculture or Heliculture, commonly known as snail farming, is an act of raising edible land snails either for human consumption or cosmetic purposes. This type of farming is a sustainable and profitable agribusiness in Nigeria that is ignored by many Nigerians, although it requires little investment. According to a snail farmer, Victoria Ojo-Ijelekhai, table snails cost between N500 to N600 while large snail size cost N1000 to N1500, depending on the size. Snails are reared in diverse snaileries such as boxes made from substances like wire gauze (net) and woods with consideration of the snails’ stage of development.
There are many advantages that come with rearing snails, one of which is that they are easy to export live as they have a shelf life between two to six months. Another advantage is that every snail is edible depending on the environment and community where they are being reared. It also has a merit of requiring little or no capital for beginning the business despite being a very lucrative business in agriculture due to the high demand for snail meat both locally and internationally.
Snails are low in fats, sodium and cholesterol.
Snail is a common meat in Nigeria and many parts of the world. It is considered a healthy meat because it has an healthy source of protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron; it is however low in fats, cholesterol and sodium. There are diverse species of snails, although there are three most commonly reared types, namely Achatina Achatina (also known as Giant snail or Giant tiger snail), Achatina Fulica (also called East African land snail) and Archachatina Marginata (also known as Giant West African snail).
The profitability of the business is apparent in the sense that 1,000 pieces of large snails which can be sold for N1,000 each can earn a return of 1 million naira. An important merit of heliculture is also the fact that snails can be sold at any stage of growth as snail eggs can be sold to people who are willing to venture into the business. One piece of Archachatina Marginata snail eggs, for instance, is sold for N50 and could earn a return of N100,000 when 2,000 pieces are old.
Snail foods are free gifts provided by nature.
According to Douglas Smart Chukwudi, Lagos-based founder of Stream Snail Tech, the only way to bridge the gap between demand and supply in Africa is to venture into small and large businesses. He added that consumers, being more aware of the demerits of high cholesterol in the body, increase their demands for snails. Also, the availability of snails is due to the cheap capital which snail farming business requires, unlike other types of farming – there is also low risk associated to snail farming.
Furthermore, Chukwudi affirmed that N50,000 capital or less can begin snail farming based on the size of the farm and the capital available. Daily necessities that aid successful farming are free gifts of nature, especially snail foods which include herbs, leaves or fruits. One other vital factor that is needed to operate a snail farm is water which is readily available. Aside easy accessibility to snail food, snails feed mostly on household waste. The Stream Snail Tech boss therefore advised salary earners and others to embrace heliculture as another source of income as it is not time-consuming.
Snails contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties.
In addition, although snail is a cheap but profitable agribusiness, it possesses vital health benefits as a result of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties and its ability to boost the immune system. It has been deduced that the average snail is 2.4 percent fat, 15 percent protein and 80 percent water. They are likewise rich in Vitamins A, E, K, and B12 with essential calcium, iron, fatty acids, magnesium and selenium. These nutrients strengthen the eyes, boost the immune system, grow body cells and build red blood cells.