Abundance. Collaboration. Empowerment. Sustainability.

OUR ROOTS

In 2010, Michael Hensel traveled to Cambodia and his perception of the world was never the same.

As part of an Impact Trip – a vacation with time spent in service to others or the environment – Michael visited a local orphanage in Phnom Penh. Being witness to nearly 100 children going about their lives with smiles on their faces despite the daily hardship of searching for food among mountains of trash, he was deeply moved.

Feeling privileged to have essential resources so easily accessible in his life, Michael began to question what he could do to help needy communities like this one.

Across the world, 815 million people suffer from chronic hunger, undernourishment and food insecurity.
Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world in Siem, Reap, Cambodia

While visiting the world’s largest spiritual site, Angkor Wat, he was surrounded by the beauty of the ancient temples.

Being mindful of his desire to help the underprivileged, he experienced an epiphany that changed his life. In a profound awakening in the middle of the night, he discovered his calling:

Find a sustainable solution to improve the standard of living for children suffering from the lack of essential resources like food and water. It was paramount to identify a resource saving technique that empowered both schools and whole communities to pay the knowledge forward.

Upon returning to the United States, Michael made it his mission to educate himself about gardening and other food production processes. Experts helped to identify aquaponics as the most sustainable solution due to a closed-loop ecosystem and the diverse outputs including healthy fruits and vegetables.

Koya Project was born as a vehicle for Michael’s passion to improve the lives of all the remarkable people he encountered while traveling the world. It was crucial to be active in spreading powerful knowledge that supports eliminating world hunger.

Koya Project Students (left-to-right): Dain, Vanita & Sokunteary

While spending time in Los Angeles, Michael intersected with fellow changemaker, Shafi Karim. Upon reviewing pencil-scratched technical drawings of future aquaponics systems, Shafi quickly put in perspective the “advantage” that aquaponics brought to the disadvantaged communities that needed help.

Born in the United States thanks to immigrant parents who sought a better environment for their future children, Shafi finally visited his native Bangladesh at the age of eight. Upon exiting the plane, his mother abruptly said in Bengali, “keep your hands in your pockets, keep your hands in your pockets!

With no time to ponder, he was hurried through a brutally humid baggage claim, and finally exited the airport into the general population for the first time.

It was then that Shafi was rushed by dozens of wandering children in the same age range, but visibly malnourished, practically naked, potentially homeless, and at the brink of survival as many sought to pick pocket or steal from incoming travelers. He realized in plain sight the vast spectrum of available resources and quality of life between the United States and third world countries.

It became common sense that taking steps to modernize, scale, and bring practicality to aquaponics could not only change the lives of some, but the many. After all, children have no choice as to the type of environment they are brought into.

Our Pillars

ABUNDANCE

“The key to abundance is meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.”
Marianne Williamson

Whether it’s introducing sustainable food production, resource-saving techniques or long-term education, we explore a diverse range of solutions to ensure our impact is geared toward future generations.

EMPOWERMENT

“When you educate one person you can change a life, when you educate many you can change the world.”
― Shai Reshef

By empowering whole communities consisting of children in critical development stages, to the adults in need, our focus on paying the knowledge forward is key to leaving a lasting impression on the world.

COLLABORATION

“Collaboration is vital to sustain what we call profound or really deep change, because without it, organizations are just overwhelmed by the forces of the status quo.”
― Peter Senge

We’re not in the mindset of changing the world by ourselves. It’s paramount that we surround ourselves with ego-less partners and change-makers who only wish to innovate, achieve and evolve together for the greater good. 

SUSTAINABILITY

“Deep inside, we still have a longing to be reconnected with the nature that shaped our imagination.”
Janine Benyus

Nature-inspired aquaponics technology is nothing new. Ancient practices from Central Mexico and Southeast Asia have shaped our adaptation to modern applications, and our strive to make this closed-loop ecosystem fully sustainable from inputs to outputs.