Meet the Founders: Daniel Farag and Omar Alfi of Pacifico Aquaculture
Pacifico Aquaculture’s striped bass is remarkable, in every sense of the word. Distinctly sweet and backed by a delicate second wave of umami, it’s become a mainstay on five-star restaurant menus around the globe.
Not long ago, this special fish was trending towards extinction. But, with innovation and reverence for marine wildlife, Pacifico saved the species and revolutionized the fishing industry. Thanks to the Pacifico team, co-captained by CEOs Daniel Farag and Omar Alfi, the striped bass thrives in pristine waters near Mexico’s Isla Todos Santos. Today, they’re feeding the world with sustainable seafood while maintaining a neutral impact on the ocean environment.
Pacifico’s mission was as ambitious as it was admirable, but, somehow, they managed to pull it off. Recently, we caught up with Daniel to learn more about his unusual journey and hear his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start Pacifico Aquaculture?
Omar and I met nearly 20 years ago at USC and we’ve been best friends ever since. We both went for our MBAs and embarked on similar career paths in finance. Along the way, we shifted towards a more entrepreneurial path that would allow us to have a positive impact on the world around us – ideally, in the food space. We were aligned on everything and we were equally motivated to succeed, so we went into business together.
We were introduced to aquaculture by one of Omar’s former colleagues. Through research, we realized that the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, which means the world will need 25%-100% more food. Meanwhile, the majority of our workable land is already in use and 90% of the world’s fish stocks are nearing unsustainable levels due to industrial fishing.
The world is facing a major problem, but aquaculture is a promising solution that allows us to provide everyone with healthy, delicious fish.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
My day-to-day changed dramatically. Suddenly, I was running an aquaculture business with no related experience in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. That was definitely a challenge!
When we first started, we had yet to build our own hatchery. Instead, we were trying to purchase juveniles from third parties. In 2014, we ordered 1.5 million fish – we received just 100K. That completely wrecked our stocking plans for the year. I cried. It felt like we were dead in the water.
After that, we immediately started building our own hatchery. Within 12 months we were producing our own striped bass juveniles under our own standards and control. The loss was devastating, but also motivating. That experience taught us the importance of managing our own value chain, especially since we’re the world’s only dedicated producers of this fish.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Hire people that will challenge you. Hire people who are smarter than you. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you and listen to them. Spend slowly. Continue to be inspired and curious in your personal life and your professional life.
And, above all else – be persistent!
04 What’s on the horizon for Pacifico Aquaculture?
The average American only eats 16 pounds of seafood per year. That’s one-third of the global average and only half of what health experts recommend. To put it another way, that’s just 7% of our average annual meat consumption. We want to continue driving seafood consumption in a way that is responsible. In the long run, we envision Pacifico’s Striped Bass becoming America’s top premium white fish.
More specifically, we are focused on innovation. And, in the background, we have been developing some amazing striped bass recipes. My personal favorite is our simple, pan-roasted recipe with lemon and salt. Omar’s fave is baked striped bass with olive oil, lemon, and ground cumin. Truthfully, you can’t go wrong with any of them!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
My wife and my son bring me energy and joy. Having a one-year-old can be distracting, but children keep us mindful of what we want for our future, their future, and our planet’s future.
Similarly, managing Pacifico has felt a lot like nurturing a family. We’re all aligned in our vision and our hardworking team has made it all possible. Collaborating with dedicated people joined together for a common purpose has inspired me tremendously. It’s not easy to provide the world with healthy protein while allowing wildlife to thrive, but we love what we do. There’s nothing that’s going to stop us.