New busi­ness comes out of its shell

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

AT RONNACHMORE Farm on Is­lay they are cel­e­brat­ing the first har­vest of a new in­gre­di­ent to add to the im­pres­sive list of food from Ar­gyll and the is­lands: snails.

Scott Chance and his wife Wendy have brought their first suc­cess­ful crop of snails to har­vest at their new busi­ness, Scot­snail, in what they be­lieve is the first com­mer­cial snail farm in Scot­land and one of very few free-range grow­ers in the UK.

‘We have suc­cess­fully reared our first batch of free-range ed­i­ble snails – the large Helix

Aspersa Max­ima, of­ten called the gros gris in France, and its smaller re­la­tion, the pe­tit gris,’ said Scott. The snails are just in time for sell­ing on to restau­rants and the gen­eral pub­lic for the an­nual French cel­e­bra­tion of the re­lease of Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau.

This is a small, sam­pling, har­vest of snails and the cou­ple hope for a big­ger crop next year. Their fi rst at­tempt at grow­ing snails last year proved to be a steep learn­ing curve.

‘Snails are at the bot­tom of the food chain. A lot of things want to eat snails: frogs, mice and birds,’ said Scott.

He added that many grow­ers use con­trolled in­door sys­tems to get a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply.

‘I be­lieve the meat is of poorer qual­ity and is more labour in­ten­sive and, with hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­ture con­trols, is also ex­pen­sive. Grow­ing snails in a free-range pad­dock means the area can be planted up with a se­lec­tion of greens and fod­der to en­sure the snails can grow and ma­ture hap­pily. The ad­van­tage over wild col­lec­tion is the knowl­edge that each snail is young and the meat will be tasty and ten­der.’

Scott and Wendy started grow­ing snails when in­ves­ti­gat­ing farm pro­duc­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties on a small area; they needed to find a prod­uct that could with­stand the salty winds blow­ing in from the loch, be happy in a cooler cli­mate and en­joy a lot of rain.

The dis­tri­bu­tion net­work set up to serve Is­lay’s seafood in­dus­try will give Scot­snail ready ac­cess to mar­kets across Europe and the UK.

Scott said: ‘Snails are per­fect. In fact, their needs are quite sim­ple: good qual­ity feed, moist en­vi­ron­ment and not too hot.

‘The other plus is you don’t need a dog to round them up.’

Scott Chance is breed­ing snails for dis­cern­ing din­ers.

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