APART from a very occasional heatwave such as the one this summer, Welsh
weather can usually be counted upon to provide the perfect damp, rainy
conditions loved by snails. That’s a fact most gardeners know to their
But thanks to Farming Connect’s Management Exchange programme, beef
and sheep farmer Richard Hughes is hoping that his proposal to breed
edible outdoor snails on his farm near Pwllheli could lead to a
lucrative new stream of income. Snails, often served in garlic butter,
have long been regarded as a delicacy by many top chefs and it seems
that collecting their slime, more correctly termed mucin or serum, could
be yet another money-spinner because of its acknowledged anti-aging
properties for human skin!
Richard who farms at Penfras Uchaf, Llwyndyrys near Pwllheli, recently
returned from a Farming Connect Management Exchange visit to Cherasco in
Italy, where he attended a course run by internationally renowned snail
breeding academy, Istituto Internazionale di Elicicoltura.
“With the uncertainty of Brexit and agricultural grants, we need to
consider all kinds of diversification enterprises to safeguard the
future of the family farm for future generations,” says Richard.
“I had carried out some preliminary research following a family
holiday in France when snails, or ‘escargot’ as they’re known
there, which are high protein yet low calorie, were on the menu in
almost every restaurant.
“By the time I applied for a Management Exchange visit, I was
reasonably confident that there was an opportunity to create a
successful snail enterprise here in Wales, mainly due to our climate.”
Richard and his wife Eleri, a retired social worker, have three grown up
sons who are all successful business people in their own right.
Alongside developing their own careers, the three boys, who all live
locally, have invested time in the family farm business.They credit
their dad for giving each of them not only a love of the land and the
incentive to safeguard their family heritage but also an entrepreneurial
The farm now extends to 200 acres, but Richard bought the original 70
acre unit in 1974 having set his heart on owning the farm where
generations of his family had been tenant farmers for over 300 years.
“It was a lifetime mission to develop the business for the boys
through buying adjacent farmland and buildings which had previously
provided livelihoods and homes for other members of my family,” says
Thanks to their father’s planned programme of expansion following
business advice received from Farming Connect many years ago and getting
involved in a number of diversified enterprises as they grew up, all
three sons are now closely involved with the family business. They
believe the new snail venture could become a lucrative project.
“Dairying, beef and sheep enterprises, breeding pigs, providing farm
accommodation, setting up a glamping site and converting farm buildings
into rental spaces and off farm employment has over the years provided
valuable income but we’ve always been ready to adapt to market
requirements to ensure every element of the business performs at peak
levels,” says Richard.
He says the family has a lot more research to carry out, particularly in
respect of soil sampling the plot now earmarked for the snail enterprise
and then if all goes to plan, of fertilising and then cleansing the soil
to ensure no flies or bugs could affect the new residents!
“One of my next steps will be to apply for nutrient management
planning guidance which is available through the Farming Connect
Advisory Service,” says Richard.
He and his sons are optimistic that for a relatively low capital outlay
their latest plan to diversify into snail farming could be yet another
winning idea which would sit well within their existing tourism
During his visit to Cherasco, Richard and a small group of international
students learned how to build an external ‘fence’ which would
prevent other creatures such as mice from disturbing the snails and also
keep ‘wild’ snails out.
“A ditch is dug in the first instance, and posts are then placed 400mm
into the soil before placing plastic/fibre glass in the space.
“After building an external fence, pens of approximately 45m x 3.5m
need to be built for the snails, with special plastic netting fence
placed around the pens.
“Each pen is split in two, 40% for breeding and 60% for
“The edge of the pen is sown with white clover in the first instance,
follwed by chicory, beets or winter brassicas such as chard with the
first sowing taking place in March (40% breeding area) and the remainder
in July – it’s a diet they like and makes for top quality snails.”
Richard says that through the contacts he made in Cherasco, he’s
already lined up a number of buyers keen for him to get his breeding
programme underway since demand currently exceeds supply, but it’s not
just the snails which have the potential to make money.
The slime from snails is packed with nutrients credited with having
anti-aging properties, and with the right equipment it can be collected,
stored and sold to make-up manufacturers. Bottled snail eggs can be
‘harvested’ and sold as snail ‘caviar’ while the snails
themselves can also be sold as food for snakes and other reptiles.
“It was evident that the work in Cherasco creates a visitor market in
itself because in addition to attracting tourists and parties of local
schoolchildren keen for an out of the ordinary experience, people come
from all around the world to learn about farming snails.
“Cherasco and the surrounding area is world famous for the ‘Slow
food movement’. It has become famous for its specialist produce and I
think it would be possible to promote a snail farm to visitors wishing
to learn about something fun yet fascinating, and also very different
here in Wales.”
Farming Connect’s Management Exchange programme encourages farmers and
foresters to learn about new or improved ways of working; to access
research and to see at first hand some of the most successful systems
operating throughout Europe today. Up to £4,000 of funding is offered
to investigate innovative or more efficient ways of working which will
broaden their knowledge, technical ability and management expertise by
travelling to other exemplar farming or forestry businesses within the
EU. Those selected also have the opportunity to host a suitably trained
and experienced farm or forest manager currently working in the EU at
their home holding.
The application process for the MANAGEMENT EXCHANGE 2018 programme will
for the first time involve a two-stage process. The application window
for STAGE 1 will be open from 1 OCTOBER TO 30 NOVEMBER 2018. The new
process allows enables applicants to make an initial outline application
which sets out their chosen topic, the reasons for choosing it and their
plans for sharing what they learn from the exchange with the wider
industry. If approved they will then proceed to STAGE 2, which is open
from 1 DECEMBER TO 31 JANUARY, which requires a more detailed proposal,
at which time fully funded mentoring will be available.
Application forms can be downloaded from www.gov.wales/farmingconnect
 or for further information call Gwenno Griffiths at Menter a Busnes
on 01970 636565 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org