Hands-on approach to life at snail's pace

WHILE some people seek out the sun after retirement, Simpson’s Denis and Helene Hawes specifically searched for a temperate, rainy climate.

The couple from the Gold Coast picked Simpson as the perfect place to start their snail farming business and the former barrister and university teacher made the move from sunny Queensland more than 12 months ago.

Mrs Hawes was born in France and came to Australia as a young girl.

She said Simpson Snails came about after the couple had visited France and Mr Dawes came up with the idea of growing snails for human consumption.

“We wanted to do something that was challenging and interesting,” Mrs Hawes said.

“We thought snail rearing would fit the bill.

“We have worked with our heads all our working lives and now we’re working with our hands.”

The couple have set up a large plot at their property to breed the snails, which will eventually be sold to restaurants and specialised delicatessens across Australia.

“We are snail pioneers,” Mrs Hawes said.

“We want to finish up with 500,000 snails.

“Our biggest challenge at the moment is to raise enough snails.”

Their first attempt last summer was a failure as 40-degree heat didn’t agree with the snails living in crates in a hot-house type enclosure.

“Our first reproduction cycle produced quite a lot of eggs and babies but we had a high mortality rate,” Mrs Hawes said.

“We decided it would be better if we put them in a paddock.”

They are now in eight-by-four-metre plots and are fed specialised fodder including kale.

Once the snails have grown to a certain size and have begun to reproduce, the Hawes will remove all the big snails. The eggs and babies will remain to hibernate through winter.

Those that are big enough will be processed for sale.

The snails are purged, fasted and their stomachs emptied and then cooked for five minutes before their shells are removed and discarded.

The snail meat is then put into compartments similar to ice-cube trays and frozen.

The snails the Hawes are breeding are common garden snails that can be found in any backyard across the country.

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