Scorpion farming can turn poison into profit – Food For Mzansi

If you’re brave enough, you might want to consider farming with scorpions. Yes, it is a thing. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
If scorpions give you the heebie-jeebies, please don’t read this article. As dangerous as it sounds, farmers across the world are making a living out of scorpion venom – a craze that has hit South Africa too.
Bravehearted people are harvesting this poisonous fluid for trade, and apparently it is a lucrative business. Scorpion venom can instantly kill humans, but researchers believe it can also be used as a pain killer and to treat cancer.
According to research published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, scorpion venom could prove to be a valuable source of bioactive molecules that may serve as leads for the development of new therapies against current and emerging diseases.
For this reason there’s been a growing interest to harvest and milk scorpion venom. It can be sold for as much as R1 900 per droplet that is smaller than a grain of sugar. One gram requires the venom of 3 000 to 3 500 scorpions.
For its monetary value and health benefits, scorpion farms are growing across the globe.
An engineer from Egypt has, for example, already turned the crazy idea into a lucrative business. 
Ahmed Abu al-Seoud produces scorpion venom for pharmaceutical research purposes, which is exactly what it is mainly used for at this stage. This, because one cannot directly inject the venom into a body because of its deadliness.
The big demand is thus among the biomedical researcher industry focused on studying the pharmaceutical properties of scorpion venom.
“Many scorpion-derived bioactive molecules have been shown to possess promising pharmacological properties which makes scorpion venom a rare and potent neurotoxin a highly sought-after commodity,” said al-Seoud in an article published by The Arab Weekly.  
Cultivating scorpions can be a very difficult task, but profitable too. There’s no one way of breeding scorpions and extracting their venom. In fact, there are many methods that can be used, but all requires proper training, research and safety methods.
Apparently scientists in Morocco developed a rather safe method of extracting the scorpion venom. They developed a remote-controlled “milking machine”, which straps to the scorpion’s tail and uses an electric impulse to stimulate the venom glands for the poison to be released.
This might sound very easy to do. However, United States biologist Steve Hawkins says the scorpion business is much more difficult to penetrate than it seems. The market for venom is very limited and one needs to really make sure they understand the industry for this kind of business.
“You would need to cultivate contacts and secure contracts well in advance of investing in building a facility, unless you want to quickly go bankrupt. Venom used for research and antivenom production are produced to the customer’s specification, so you’ll have to know what species’ venom are needed, in what quantity, on what schedule, and what kinds of testing and certifications must be provided for your customer to purchase them,” says Hawkins.
Of course, you will need scorpions to start the business, meaning that you have to find these creatures under the rocks and so on. 
“Obtain animals with which to start your production. This will entail either purchase of captive-bred specimens or possibly a tornado of government regulatory paperwork in order to remove a few specimens from the wild.
“You’ll have to start with a few pairs and breed them, so a decent amount of time will be needed in order to establish a full colony. I’m guessing that in order to fulfill enough orders to support a business (if this indeed is even possible), you’ll be talking about at least tens of thousands of animals.”
Most importantly, just be extremely careful when you harvest and milk these creatures because according to Steve Trim, founder of Venomtech, just one sting can be a hundred times more painful than a bee sting.
ALSO READ: Another helping of insect protein? Yes, please!
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