Mike Mitchell founded Acari Fish in May 2016 following his experience as a Fulbright research fellow in Tabasco, Mexico. Originally from Los Angeles, Mike had spent years working with sustainable fisheries and aquaponics before coming to Mexico to research small-scale fish farming. Once in Tabasco, however, he quickly discovered that the true problem in rural fishing communities was not related to fish farming but rather the much feared 'devil fish' as local fishermen called it.
After asking around the local university and researching online, Mike realized that the 'devil fish' was actually the plecostomus or 'armored catfish', a common fish in household aquariums known for its veracity in consuming algae. Based on well-known studies of other fish like the orange roughy and Chilean sea bass, where producers gave formerly discarded species a new name and a makeover, Mike asked, "Well, why can't we just do the same with this fish?"
And that's exactly what Acari has done since 2016 — through a series of workshops, presentations and tasting events, Acari has worked to change the perception of the devil fish in Tabasco, one mouthful at a time. The team has implemented its first 'module' in the community of Simón Sarlat to process the fish. By partnering with chefs around Mexico, Acari began selling devil fish fillets, in turn providing a new source of employment to local fishermen. In the summer of 2017, the Acarí team, inspired by giving food to Central American migrants, began experimenting with fish jerky, formally launching the El Diablito jerky brand in November 2017.