We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Mitchell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I never set out to start my own business. Before starting Acari, I was working as a fisheries researcher in Southern Mexico when I came across the invasive “pez diablo” or devil fish and the destructive effects it was having on freshwater ecosystems and the communities that depended on freshwater fishing. Everything started when I teamed up with some local fishermen and a chef friend to give free workshops around the region to promote devil fish consumption, something that’s been done with numerous other invasive species around the world. Eventually, however, we realized the opportunity we had to do something socially and environmentally positive with this seemingly endless supply of clean, healthy protein. That’s when we started selling fillet to restaurants across Mexico and then came up with our jerky and pet treats products made from the fish.
What should our readers know about your business?
We work with artisanal fishermen in Mexico to turn the tide against the hated, invasive devil fish, upcycling it into delectably meaty products. Our primary product is our line of planet positive pet treats, Pezzy Pets. I’m most proud about the impact we’ve had in the communities where we work – these are places with incredibly high rates of poverty and little economic opportunity but by creating a market for this invasive fish, we’ve been able to boost local employment and incomes. Our employees earn on average 40% more than they did previously.
Getting here was anything but easy as we had to set up an entire cold chain and export logistics from southern Mexico to the US and Canada. The key for us was starting small and experimenting with different potential ideas to finally develop solutions that were suitable and viable for the places where we work, leveraging local knowledge and assets.
The underlying belief of our work is that there’s a seemingly endless supply of clean, healthy protein that’s currently being wasted across Mexico. We’re looking to create a national network of devil fish processors and develop products that are good for both the consumer as well as the environment.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Special shoutout to UC Berkeley and the Master’s of Development Program for supporting us in our earliest days and helping us take a rough idea and build it into something great!