Do you want to start a turtle farming business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a turtle farming business with NO money and no experience. Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines (or Chelonii) that are characterized by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that act as a shield. Also “Turtle” may be used to refer to the order as a whole or to fresh-water and sea-dwelling testudines.
All these may seem like gibberish, but for you to be successful in this business; you have to understand this lovely species. Turtle farming has been considered as a business that is very lucrative but which has many rules and regulations to fulfill.
It is important to know first what turtle farming is before you can start your own. First and foremost, a turtle farm is where numerous turtles are being taken care of and grown for the purpose of selling them either as pet to pet suppliers, or for food and export. About twenty-six different types of turtles are being taken care of and being farmed. The most popular and common turtle that is used and farmed is the Red Eared Turtle.
Usually, more than 15 million turtles are annually harvested. In the united states, it would be better for you to start your own farm since it is being regulated there, unlike in other states where it is not allowed. If that will be the case for you, visit your local government and asked if you can operate a turtle farm first before you start your turtle farm. A lot of domestic farms of this kind are operating in the southern part of the United States. There are also turtle farms in the northern parts such as Maryland.
These turtles are typically exported to several parts of the world including China, Mexico and Japan. Also note that if you are going to build a turtle farm, you must obtain licenses and permits to operate it. These required licenses and permits are governed and regulated by state agencies. Moreover, many state licenses usually follow the laws of wildlife conservation and FDA guidelines.
18 Steps to Starting a Turtle Farming Business
Table of Content
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
- 17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- 18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
1. Understand the Industry
It is very important to state that turtle farming is the practice of raising turtles and tortoises of various species commercially. Also note that raised animals are sold for use as gourmet food, traditional medicine ingredients, or as pets. We believe that a lot of farms also sell young animals to other farms either as breeding stock, or more commonly to be raised there to a larger size for subsequent resale.
You should also know that turtle farms primarily raise freshwater turtles (primarily Chinese soft-shell turtles as a food source, and sliders and cooter turtles for the pet trade); which is why turtle farming is usually classified as aquaculture.
According to facts and reports, only three serious attempts are believed to have been made to farm sea turtles. Indeed only one of them, in Cayman Islands, still double as a tourist attraction; while the one in Australia’s Torres Strait Islands failed after a few years of operation and the one in Réunion has been converted to a public aquarium (Kélonia).
Turtle farming in the United States started in the early 1900s, with farms in Maryland and North Carolina raising diamondback terrapins, which are considered a delicacy in those parts. But as time went on into the late 20th century, few turtles were raised for food in the United States, and American restaurants mostly rely on wild-caught turtles. But in 2012, red-ear sliders raised in Oklahoma were reported to be sold in Virginia and Maryland’s Asian supermarkets.
It is very crucial to note that since the 1960s, just a number of turtle farms have kept functioning in several states, including Oklahoma and Louisiana. Reports have it that Louisiana had around 60 turtle farms in 2007, producing some 10 million turtles a year. But just in 2004, 72 turtle farms were licensed by the State of Louisiana.
Reports have shown that the industry started “70-some years” ago (i.e., in the 1930s) with farmers collecting eggs laid by wild turtles, getting them to hatch, and selling the hatchlings as pets. We were able to note that the US turtle industry suffered a serious setback in 1975 when the US Food and Drug Administration stopped interstate trade in small turtles, specifically those with carapace lengths of less than 4 inches, to mitigate spreading Salmonella infection.
Note that the FDA ban does allow for farmers to sell turtles within the US to be used for legitimate educational, scientific, or exhibition purposes, and to sell turtles outside the US clearly marked as “Export Only”. Also know that to export any turtles, farmers need to get an export permit by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. For instance, Louisiana needs additional testing for farmer licensing: an anti-salmonellosis prophylactic treatment regimen developed at Louisiana State University by Ronald Siebeling and later enhanced by Mark Mitchell.
We believe that due to the domestic ban and emphasis on exporting them internationally, the size of US turtle industry’s volume can be surmised from recorded export data. But know that the cumulative data includes both farmed and wild-caught turtles, but the farmed component is usually predominant.
Experts stated that 97% of 31.8 million turtles and tortoises exported from the U.S. between November 2002 and November 2005 were farm-raised. Also within this same period, 47% of the US turtle exports went to the People’s Republic of China (predominantly to Hong Kong), another 20% to Taiwan, and 11% to Mexico.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
We believe this business will be best for you if you really have a love for the earth and a love for growing things. Note that you must also be willing to work extensive hours and have patience for years when the turtles struggle to thrive. Have it in mind that a food distributor for a large Supermarket chain will be willing to buy your entire stock for one price, which guarantees the sale.
However, individual customers will pay a premium price per pound for the opportunity to explore the unique joy and life of the turtles. A farm stand can generate income once the turtles grow and become productive.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
When planning to start this business, you need to outline what types of turtles you plan to breed and sell, and how you plan to fund the business. You need to focus on turtles that you like and know a lot about. Don’t forget that almost all turtles will take a few years before they are old enough to breed and produce revenue. Species to consider may include:
- Central American wood turtle
- African Aquatic Sideneck Turtle
- Red ear slider turtle
- Painted turtle
- Caspian Pond Turtle
- Eastern box turtle
- Reeve’s Turtle
- Russian tortoise
- Greek tortoise
- Mississippi Map Turtle
The Level of Competition in the Industry
Indeed the unique flesh of turtles, calipash or calipee, was and still is considered a delicacy in a number of cultures. Things like Turtle soup has been a prized dish in Anglo-American cuisine, and still remains so in some parts of Asia. Gopher tortoise stew was popular with some groups in Florida.
Have it in mind that turtles remain a part of the traditional diet on the island of Grand Cayman, so much so that when wild stocks became depleted, a turtle farm was built specifically to raise sea turtles for their meat. The farm also releases specimens to the wild as part of an effort to repopulate the Caribbean Sea.
We also know that fat from turtles are also used in the Caribbean and in Mexico as a main ingredient in cosmetics, marketed under its Spanish name crema de Tortuga. While Turtle plastrons (the part of the shell that covers a tortoise from the bottom) are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine.
For instance, Taiwan imports hundreds of tons of plastrons every year. Also a popular medicinal preparation based on powdered turtle plastron (and a variety of herbs) is the guilinggao jelly; these days, though, it is typically made with only herbal ingredients.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- Cayman turtle farm
- Concordia turtle farm
- Loggerheads acres turtle farm
- Sea Turtle Farm and Hatchery
- Golden turtle farm
- Anguilla turtle farm
- Redneck Turtle Farm – Home
Just in 2011, industry reports showed that the top 25 species of turtles are most likely to become extinct, with a further 40 species at very high risk of becoming extinct. Note that this list excludes sea turtles, but, both the leatherback and the Kemp’s ridley would make the top 25 list. Also 48 and 54% of all 328 of their species are considered threatened, turtles and tortoises are at a much higher risk of extinction than many other vertebrates.
Of the 263 species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles, 117 species are considered threatened, 73 are either Endangered or Critically Endangered and 1 is Extinct. Of the 58 species belonging to the Testudinidae family, 33 species are threatened, 18 are either Endangered or Critically Endangered, 1 is Extinct in the wild and 7 species are Extinct. 71% of all tortoise species are either gone or almost gone.
We believe that Asian species are the most endangered, closely followed by the five endemic species from Madagascar. It is no longer a hidden talk that turtles face many threats, including habitat destruction, harvesting for consumption, and the pet trade.
Experts believe that the high extinction risk for Asian species is primarily due to the long-term unsustainable exploitation of turtles and tortoises for consumption and traditional Chinese medicine, and to a lesser extent for the international pet trade.
Efforts have been made by Chinese entrepreneurs to satisfy increasing demand for turtle meat as gourmet food and traditional medicine with farmed turtles, instead of wild-caught ones. Irrespective of the public awareness, wild turtles continue to be caught and sent to market in large numbers (as well as to turtle farms, to be used as breeding stock, resulting in a situation described by conservationists as “the Asian turtle crisis”.
We have also noted that hunting wild turtles is legal in a number of states in the USA. In one of these states, Florida, just a single seafood company in Fort Lauderdale was reported in 2008 as buying about 5,000 pounds of softshell turtles a week. The harvesters (hunters) are paid about $2 a pound; a lot of them manage to catch as many as 30–40 turtles (500 pounds) on a good day. Some of the catch gets to the local restaurants, while most of it is exported to Asia.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
Buying a franchise is far better than starting from the scratch in the turtle farm business. Spurred on by dreams of a future big money buyout and an undeniable entrepreneurial impulse, many would-be turtle farm business owners are driven to pursue start-up strategies. You have to understand that a healthier and safer strategy may be to purchase an existing turtle farm business.
Existing turtle farm businesses are proven operations with dependable revenue streams. And that is not to mention the fact that a purchase lets you avoid the trial-and-error mistakes that are common in start-ups. Going with a franchise lets you take advantage of the franchisor’s knowledge of the industry and a tested system for operating the business.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
A large majority of turtles exported from the USA are farm raised. Reports have it that about 97% of 31.8 million animals harvested in the U.S. over a three-year period (November 4, 2002 – November 26, 2005) were exported. Also it has been estimated (presumably, over the same 2002–2005 period) that about 47% of the US turtle exports go to People’s Republic of China (predominantly to Hong Kong), another 20% to Taiwan, and 11% to Mexico.
All these facts indeed show that this industry is lucrative, but also shows that a lot of pressure is being added to these species on the near brink of extinction. Here are few challenges of starting a turtle farm business;
- Choosing a suitable location diseases
- Industry knowledge
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
Choosing a legal structure for your turtle farm is a task that can feel overwhelming. But for the sake of this article, the LLC is the best legal entity for a turtle farm business. Have it in mind that the costs and efforts to set up an LLC are relatively minor and it provides a level of protection to your personal assets that a sole proprietorship does not. New businesses should think forward and anticipate growth and its complications. Also note that LLC provides the liability protection for your turtle farm with the tax structure of a partnership, while providing operational flexibility.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
- Green turtle
- Tasty blend
- Red Road turtles
- Rusty ranch
- Busted wagon turtles
- Winter holts
- Mainstream turtles
- Concord turtle farm
- Dow turtle
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
If you want to be a turtle farmer, you should understand that insurance is part of doing business, and you should have a variety of insurances in place to take care of injuries and mishaps. These insurance policies may include
- General Liability
- Property Insurance- Including Buildings/Equipment/Stock/Inventory
- Homeowners insurance
- Farm Owners insurance
- Automobile insurance
- Worker’s Compensation insurance
- Life Insurance
- Public liability insurance
- Income protection/personal accident cover
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Most people won’t believe that this industry needs intellectual property protection. Intellectual property rights which include patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights -even the right URLs-, play an essential role in monetizing innovation.
If you make it easy for others to steal your ideas, you can ultimately end up washing away your own path to success. We can all agree that an IP as such does not feed the world; however, it does provide the invisible infrastructure that gives room to innovation and progress in the turtle farm business.
Indeed some few decades ago, agriculture as a whole was an empirical science based on trial and error. Today’s innovations were developed using sophisticated science and technology, including cell biology, genome and proteome research, gene mapping, marker-assisted breeding and hybridization. Intellectual property protection is needed in the turtle farm business to protect patents and new ideas, registered and unregistered trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
Professional certification or qualification is a distinction an individual can earn that credits them with a high level of skill or expertise in some area. Certifications can serve as an indicator of professionalism and aptitude. Certifications are often regulated by a professional organization. Indeed this industry has no known certification, but you can get other certifications to help boost your credibility. Few professional certifications needed for a turtle farm business are
- Organic farmer certification
- CPD professional certification
- Aquaculture farmer certification
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
Do not forget that documents play an important role in protecting the interests of the business and business owners over the course of a farm’s lifetime. Every business has legal documents needed to run its day to day activities. You don’t jump into a business without putting together everything and dotting all i’s. Here is a list of documents needed to run a turtle farm business;
- Operating Agreement for LLCs.
- Business license
- Drivers insurance
- Employment agreement
- Business plan
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
We believe that the cost of starting a turtle farm can be particularly high compared to other aquaculture small businesses, and a well-planned and managed operation can be profitable. A turtle farm needs finance to flourish and expand, finance to provide feeds for the turtles and extend their homes and all other things. Ways of financing a turtle farm may include;
- Family loans
- Community schemes
- Peer-to-peer loans
- Micro loans and grants
- Crowd funding
- angel investors
- Cash advances
- Bank overdrafts
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Irrespective of the location, it is very important that you have to setup your farm as a rectangular plot of any size. There are a few basic criteria for the farm to work correctly:
- The farm must be rectangular.
- The farm must be pre-planted, or at the very least, pre-tilled.
- The turtle must be placed in the orientation tank, in the bottom left of the rectangle, facing away from the chest.
- The farm must be fenced off.
- Seeds always go in the turtle’s first slot.
- The farm works with either advanced or normal turtles, but advanced can hold 5x the fuel by default.
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
Generally, turtles prefer to keep things simple, but whether your turtle farm is aquatic, semi-aquatic, or a land turtle such as a box turtle, you will need certain supplies to keep them healthy, and to make your turtles feel safe and comfortable in their habitat. Using one turtle as a point of research, below are the things you need to make it grow and survive.
A big Tank
Just a single turtle will need a glass or acrylic tank that is at least 20 gallons. When it comes to turtle tanks, bigger is better. A lot of owners start out with a 55 or 75 gallon tank, while others start smaller and upgrade as their turtles grow.
Also, for a single turtle, you will also need an aquarium hood cover for your tank to keep your turtle inside, and to keep children and other pets from harming him. Have it in mind that this tank will need to be equipped with a filtration system to keep the water clean.
A lot of semi-aquatic turtles will do fine with no more than 50 percent of the tank dedicated to water; however, aquatic turtles need the majority of the tank to be water, with no more than 25 percent of the tank dedicated to a land feature.
Also know that for a tanked farm, you will need a safe water conditioner to de-chlorinate the tank. Include a ramp, or “dock,” so your turtle can climb in and out of the water. This can be a clean, worn piece of driftwood, a piece of log, or flat rocks. Box turtles will need a shallow water dish that is big enough for them to climb into.
Clear light and Heat
Note that all turtles need a certain amount of UVB rays to stimulate vitamin D production in their bodies, otherwise they will get sick. This is why you will need to provide your turtle with a heat lamp, and make sure he gets exposure to real sunlight each day.
Also during the winter months, your turtle will need night time heat as well, so provide him with a ceramic heat emitter, a heating device that gives off only heat, and not light. You will also need a tank thermometer to make sure your turtle’s habitat is the right temperature.
A turtle farm needs to have an area where the turtles can bask. For a single turtle, you can use a substrate such as soil, sand, or aquarium gravel, or arrange rocks to provide a flat and stable surface for soaking up the warmth and light from the lamp.
Do not use wood chips or tree bark with an aquatic or semi-aquatic turtle, as he may ingest these and suffer an intestinal blockage. The rule of thumb when creating a habitat is to keep it simple; a cluttered habitat can promote bacterial growth and disease.
No one wants to be out in the open all day and night. Also know that your turtle(s) will appreciate the chance to retreat into a shelter for a little privacy. You can make him a shelter or cave out of rocks, wood, or arrange some live or artificial aquatic plants. But in case you choose to use live plants, make sure you do your research and consult your veterinarian to be sure the plants you select will not harm your turtle.
Turtle Food and Water
Note that in the wild, turtles are opportunistic feeders that will eat when and what they can. It is important not to overfeed your pet turtle. Herbivore species will need a variety of vegetables and plants, while carnivorous turtles will need live food or frozen food that you have thawed.
Omnivorous turtles will need a variety of both meat and vegetables. In addition to prepared foods, you can feed your turtle a variety of fresh foods, depending on his diet. You will have to provide him with calcium supplement as well, to keep him healthy. Box turtles will need access to fresh water.
Turtle Cleaning Supplies
Also note that it is very crucial to keep your farm clean so that your turtles can be healthy. For a single turtle, you will need a small net to remove debris, waste, or uneaten food. But you have to first put your turtle in a safe container designated for the purpose during tank cleanings. Also know that you will need special cleaning products to clean and sterilize the habitat, because soap and water can harm your turtle. You will need a pH test kit to ensure safe water chemistry.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
We all grew up knowing that many turtles spend a large amount of their lives underwater. All turtles and tortoises breathe air and must surface at regular intervals to refill their lungs. These beauties can also spend much or all of their lives on dry land. It has been noted that turtles can take up dissolved oxygen from the water using their papillae, in much the same way that fish use gills to respire.
Just like any other reptile, turtles lay eggs that are slightly soft and leathery. Note that the eggs of the largest species are spherical while the eggs of the rest are elongated. Their albumen is white and contains a different protein from bird eggs, such that it will not coagulate when cooked.
Turtle eggs prepared to eat consist mainly of yolk. Research has shown that in some species, temperature decides whether an egg develops into a male or a female: a higher temperature causes a female, a lower temperature causes a male.
Large numbers of eggs are deposited in holes dug into mud or sand. They are then covered and left to incubate by themselves. It all rests on the species; the eggs will typically take 70–120 days to hatch. But when the turtles hatch, they squirm their way to the surface and head toward the water. There are no known species in which the mother cares for her young.
Indeed turtles lay their eggs on dry, sandy beaches. Immature sea turtles are not cared for by the adults. Note that turtles can take many years to reach breeding age, and in many cases, they breed every few years rather than annually.
Experts have recently discovered a turtle’s organs do not gradually break down or become less efficient over time, unlike most other animals. It was found that the liver, lungs, and kidneys of a centenarian turtle are virtually indistinguishable from those of its immature counterpart. This has inspired genetic researchers to begin examining the turtle genome for longevity genes.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Turtle farming can be a very lovely hobby, a profitable side line, or a full-time occupation. Turtle farming can be an income-producing venture if done well and right. Marketing ideas and strategies may include;
Leverage Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ markets most times include far more than vegetables. They often include freshly baked breads, handmade items, and other assorted goodies. Your turtle’s can be the perfect addition to a farmers’ market, as well as a wonderful opportunity to introduce your products to local consumers.
Craft Shows and Festivals
Try to know about any upcoming festivals in your area and then contact the event organizers to ask about displaying your products as a vendor. They will be able to provide you with the cost of reserving a booth, along with any guidelines and parameters for your presentation area (size, location, hours, etc.). But for larger events, you will have to have plenty inventories at hand. The increased cost of participating at larger festivals means that you will need to sell more turtles to cover your expenses.
You can market your turtles by sharing your knowledge with others. A lot of people are unaware of exactly how turtles are groomed and are intrigued to learn about the details of turtle farming. By hosting a turtle farming demonstration (in conjunction with another event, perhaps), you can introduce a group of people to the joys of turtle farming and possibly make a sale at the same time. Find out about events in your area in which you might be able to participate.
Public Displays and Signs
If you are setting up for an outdoor event—and let’s face it, most farmers’ markets and festivals are usually held outside—then you will need some kind of tent to protect your tanks from inclement weather. Besides, who wants to sit outside in the rain? Small (10’ x 10’) pop-up tents can be inexpensively obtained and are easy to put up and take down, minimizing your set-up time.
You will need a table or two on which to display your products and a chair so that you can rest periodically between transactions. It is important to make your display attractive and eye catching, so take the time to create a pleasant atmosphere for your booth. One good way to draw people into your booth is to offer free samples or other complementary items that can introduce people to your turtles.
Making use of the Internet to Drive Sales
If sitting outside in all kinds of inclement weather just doesn’t appeal to you, then you can rejoice in the fact that there are still other ways to market and promote your turtle farm without ever stepping out your front door. In today’s interconnected world of the internet and social media, you can reach customers, promote your products, and make sales, all with the clicks of some buttons and a little ingenuity.
17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
From the outside, establishing a turtle farm can sound deceptively simple, but in fact turtle farming is a form of animal husbandry that involves taking care of a sea animal on land. It is a labour oriented business and to win your competitors you need to consider the following;
- Being innovative and creating new ideas
- Creating a customer-centric culture
- Don’t compete on price but on quality
- Remember that saturation can mean strength
18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
You can provide the best services in the world, but unless consumers are aware of it, you may not make a single sale. One of your most important jobs as a business owner is to create brand awareness for your product. Ways to boost your brand awareness and create a corporate identity in the turtle farming business may include;
- Using the web
- Creating a breathtaking social presence
- Using traditional advertising methods
- Display your product prominently in stores
- Hosting public events