She added that this was twice as many as the attendance at Ireland’s first snail farming conference, which took place last year.

“They were conventional farmers who don’t generate much income and are looking to diversify, and also people in rural areas with a bit of land, such as mothers with children, who are looking for an income,” said Eva, who brought snail farming to Ireland three years ago and operates a production farm in Ballumurn, Co Wexford, and a research farm in Garryhill, Co Carlow.

The conference was priced at €100 for two days and Eva told the Irish Farmers Journal that “there was no time wasted”.

€20,000/acre margin

She said that snails sell for €4,000/t, with an acre of land capable of producing 10t annually. She added that her margin, once production costs are deducted, is €20,000/acre.

According to NOTS, the global market for edible snails is 300,000t, valued at €1bn and growing by 4.5% each year. The French and Italian markets alone amount to €300 million. France imports over 80% of its needs and Italy 60%, creating an export potential of approximately €200 million.

Snail meat is a traditional delicacy on the continent, but it is also increasingly seen as a health food – high in protein and omega3 and low in fat. Snail slime is also used in the cosmetics industry.

Ireland’s wet climate is ideal for snail farming. However, Eva warned that “it is hard work”.

The first five months of the production cycle, when snails mate and produce large numbers of offspring, is labour intensive. “Then they live their own life in the summer, but you still have to feed and water them every day,” said Eva.

Finally, harvesting from September onwards requires additional labour, as each snail must be hand-picked.