Peter Monaghan has secured planning to build Ireland’s first processing plans to specialise in harvesting snail eggs and mucus.

Virginia farmer to build Ireland’s first snail processing plant

Cavan produced snails celebrated by top chef.

There’s no sign of things slowing down on Peter Monaghan’s Inis Escargot organic snail farm.

Not content with putting Cavan on the snail farming map, and having his produce hailed by some of the biggest names on the Irish culinary landscape, the canny agri-entrepreneur is now building the country’s first purpose build processing facility.

“This has always been the ambition, ever since I first got into snail farming. I set myself a roadmap for how I would progress the business, and this is where it’s going to,” Peter says when the Celt visited his farm at Fartagh, Virginia.

Peter attained planning for his proposed project back in March of this year, and he has been encouraged along by his peers in Created in Cavan.

Once built Peter will begin to specialise in harvesting snail caviar and snail mucus which has its uses in the beauty industry.

The market for the potentially hugely lucrative snail eggs at present, at Peter has already established, is Dubai and China.

By the end of this week meanwhile Peter expects to have completed his first order for Inis Escargot harvested snail mucus.

“There’s been engagement there for three years, opening channels, dealing with people and businesses, of course there has. It’s about building relationships and building that network.”

What gets Peter excited about the prospect for the future in caviar terms at least is that he produced almost 60kgs of snail eggs last year, hatching them, selling some to other breeders here in Ireland and abroad, and keeping more himself.

“I’ve to look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is harvesting and preserving the caviar myself,” says Peter, who is working on ways to crack the code on how best to preserve fresh snail caviar for shipment.

“Preservative recipes are under lock and key in Europe, they’re like gold. It’s such a niche market,” explains the ambitious Peter. “It’s a big stepping stone but I’m hoping this’ll work out, and all going well I’ll have this up and running in no more than 12 months. That’s my aim. That’s the plan. Why not try?”

The new Inis Escargot processing facility will also be used by Peter in processing his Hélix Aspersa Muller (AKA snails).

This year alone Peter bred between 2.5-3 million snails, and will harvest just under half of that mainly for the food industry come September.

“They’re gone already. I’ve buyers for them all. We had three different markets for them this year, and I went with the one that I feel will open up even bigger gateways to us in future,” says Peter.

He says it has been “unbelievable” to see his snails used in the eponymous ‘Peter’s Omelette’ on chef Richard Corrigan’s Park Café, and for the dish to then win ‘Dish of the Year’.

Peter goes quiet for a moment, before telling the Celt about his own father Patrick who died in 2006.

“Going up to the Park Café with my family and eating food you’ve produced in a place like that - I was just thinking of my father. When you look at the farm, and cattle, and all the hardships, to think that snails are what’s brought you where you are today, your wife and two kids beside you, it’s incredible. Really surreal, and just hard to believe. That was a big one for us.”

For Peter at least, he sees a “future”, and a livelihood with which to sustain his suckler farm and family.

The processing plant represents a massive investment for Peter, and he’s well aware of the risks, as he is the absolute potential of being the first to take the initiative to process snails in Ireland, instead of sending them abroad.

The next step after that is changing people’s perceptions of the snail as a food product closer to home.

“If this works, and I’m determined, it will completely revolutionise snail farming, not just for the industry in Ireland, but how people see and treat the snail.

"I’m 38 years of age and I’m invested in this business. There’s no point half-arsing it, you have to put everything into it. I hope people respect that,” says Peter who openly speaks about the mistakes he’s made to date.

“Its learning from those mistakes and not repeating them that makes a business successful. I’m as passionate about this now as the first day I started.

“I feel I’ve been training myself up for this. I’ve yet to see where the boundaries are with this, that’s the truth. What’s driving me now is to stand outside the door with my first jar of Inis Escargot snails, the first man in Ireland to do it.”