REFRESCH’s approach in Kazakhstan has been to simultaneously (i) find and engage in interesting opportunities to work with local people to address food, energy, and water challenges and (ii) seek and build relationships with academic and research institutions in Kazakhstan to ensure relevancy and sustainability. Thus, during travels in Kazakhstan to accomplish these goals, the REFRESCH team has had meetings in Astana with faculty and administrators from Nazarbayev University and faculty from Eurasian National University. They also have met with researchers from several government-supported research institutes in Astana and Almaty and individuals in and around a village near Almaty. An extensive trip in August 2015 resulted in the following efforts 2015/2016:
- Working with a large inland fish farm near Almaty to develop the knowledge base that will allow cultivation, on a commercial scale, of fingerlings of pike-perch (same genus as walleye) for the purpose of stocking lakes and waterways. REFRESCH, with support from the Michigan DNR, participated in a workshop in August of 2015 that was attended by the Kazakh Fisheries Institute (government research lab), the Kazakh Fisheries Committee (a government body), and academics from Kazakh National University. REFRESCH and the MI DNR invited students and people from the fish farm to come to the US to participate in walleye collection activities in the spring. So far, Kazakh funding opportunities for that have not been attained, but the professor from Kazakh National University submitted a proposal for funding in August 2016.
- Development of projects for the UM senior mechanical engineering design course that are aimed at energy/water/food security concerns in a village east of Almaty. Projects include a food dryer and a system for drip irrigation of backyard gardens, both powered by renewable energy. The fruit dryer was recenty tested (August/September 2016) to ascertain the temperature profiles inside the dryer over a day's period. The opportunity for students to improve on the current design will be offered Winter 2017 to senior design teams.
- Installation of an anemometer that was donated by DTE Energy for the purpose of gathering wind speed information near the village and fish farm that REFRESCH is working with. This region is reportedly subject to frequent high winds, and REFRESCH is interested in potentially utilizing the information in a wind power project.
- Working with a professor at Nazarbayev University and his group of senior design students to model optimal renewable energy technologies for use in a fish farm.
- A researcher in the School of Public Health - Sergei Chernyak - is developing a study to ascertain levels of persistent organic pollutants in Kazakh waters and food.
REFRESCH is currently working with Michigan State University to explore the possibilities of developing a large proposal to continue and expand food-energy-water-related research in the southeastern region of Kazakhstan.