Acarí turns catfish into a source of work for rural fishing communities and Central American refugees in Mexico
Mike Mitchell, founder of Acarí, tells us how his startup was founded and why it has a relevant social impact on the local communities it works with.
Acarí is working to change the perception of the catfish that in Mexico is called devil fish for its veracity of algae and for being highly invasive. The catfish, which is usually thrown away by Mexican fishermen, is a very nutritious and tasty fish. Acarí has thus developed a franchise system where they train local fishermen and provide them with the equipment to process the fish into fillets that are then packaged and sold, creating a new source of employment and revenue for them. The Acarí team, inspired by giving food to Central American migrants, began conducting experiments that led to the production of jerky fish in bold teriyaki and kickin' chili lime flavours. The official launch of the fish jerky brand, El Diablito, will be in April or May 2018.
I moved to Tabasco in southeastern Mexico to start working with rural fishing communities to research the socio-economic impact of small-scale fish farming in 2014. Wherever I went fishermen would ask me what could be done about the "pez diablo" or devil fish problem, desperate to find a solution to an invasive fish that had decimated the fishing industry.
I began with informal talks and cooking demonstrations to destigmatize the devil fish and promote local consumption. Eventually I started working with a group of fishermen to process the devil fish and sell fillet to local restaurants. Once at UC Berkeley, I continued tinkering with the project and met Sam. We talked about growing the fillet business but following a trip to give food to Central American migrants riding La Bestia northwards, Sam and I began experimenting with ways to preserve the fish and stumbled across jerky. With a rich flavor and hearty texture, we knew we were on to something and El Diablito jerky was born.
We have developed a cold chain from Southern Mexico into the U.S. to transport our raw material and have created a successful MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Our initial sales have been quite motivating and we're in the process of partnering with co-packers to ramp up production.
GSVC for us has been an unbelievable opportunity to build our business. First and foremost GSVC has granted us access to an amazing network of mentors, industry professionals and potential clients. We've also used our experience through GSVC to really hone our value proposition and core pitch. GSVC has been a truly amazing experience for us.