Changing the world for the better is goal of one of Kazakhstan’s 100 New Faces

ASTANA – Young research chemist Dias Tastanbekov, one of Kazakhstan’s 100 New Faces, wants to provide facilities for growing environmentally friendly and locally made products for everyone.

Dias Tastambekov

In his famous article “Course towards the Future: Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted last year, “The history of independence is only a quarter of a century. But it is amazing! The historic scale of achievements does not raise any doubts. However, very often we do not see bright, dramatic and happy human destinies behind numbers and facts.”

The 100 New Faces of Kazakhstan project aims to uncover the stories of people of different regions, ages, professions and ethnic groups, to show them to the general public and their professional and real-life success model and motivation for the younger generation.

One of the 18 winners of the contest in the science nomination, along with older venerable scientists, was 32-year-old Dias Tastanbekov. He is a graduate of the faculty of chemistry and chemical technology of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University with a research chemist degree and a graduate of the University of Sheffield (UK) under the Bolashak programme.

Today, Tastanbekov is CEO of Akyl-D LLP producing aero- and hydroponic facilities. The company has three areas of specialisation: cultivation and marketing of environmentally friendly greens by aeroponics (automated soilless growing of plants) and equipping schools with hydroponic facilities and methods of their operation, as well as educational courses.

“City-farming is a training programme for soilless cultivation which includes theory and practice to give the participants a clearer picture of the soilless systems for growing plants within a controlled environment. Our courses are practical which allows not only to develop knowledge but also to increase opportunities for continuing the training. If you are interested in aero- or hydroponics, whether as a hobby or business, this course can be a great starting point. At the end, anyone will be able to build his/her own hydroponic facility, understanding the process and cultivation conditions,” says Tastanbekov.

In general, aero- and hydroponics are highly relevant for Kazakhstan, where not all lands are suitable for agriculture and water is not sufficient. It is the process of growing plants in an air environment without soil, wherein nutrients are delivered to roots in the form of an aerosol. The ecological advantages of aeroponics are saving water and energy.

By the way, according to Tastanbekov, it was used in the days of the Maya civilisation. Officially, scientist Artemiy Artsikhovsky patented this technology in 1911. It has been used successfully in Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.

Together with his partner Arman Toskanbayev, using a start-up Bolashak grant and private investment, Tastanbekov started a greenhouse business in Karaganda, but later transferred it to the Almaty region. They grow arugula and basil; the planned yield is 30 kilos per day. In Almaty, they also have a laboratory where they carry out different experiments.  There are plans that soon these greenhouses will be installed in Astana and Shymkent.

The goal is clear: to provide useful, environmentally friendly and locally made products and to equip public catering, cafes, restaurants and even private houses with similar facilities, so that greens could be grown by everyone.

A year after the master’s programme, Tastanbekov took a job as a junior researcher in the research centre of Nazarbayev University Research and Innovation System (NURIS), where he studied two types of polymers: biodegradable for medicine and semiconductor for solar cells. After four and a-half years he left NURIS and a year later became the head of the Alternative Polymer Materials private laboratory.

Even while working as a junior researcher, Tastanbekov started to work on his own projects: talking orderly bin, video cards, 3D-printing and DePrinter (a method of cleaning printer ink from office paper for repeated use). Today, the chemist is preparing a bid for his biggest project – biodegradable implants for osteosynthesis and plans to write his doctoral work about it.

However, the limits of any institution soon became too tight for a seeker such as Tastanbekov. Therefore, he started his own business projects.

“Today we need people who can analyse, synthesise their cross-disciplinary knowledge. I am convinced that every person can do something that would change the world for the better. All make mistakes. Scientists are no exception. After all, they are in constant search for new solutions. But as they say, without defeats there are no victories. If the person is not going to try to experiment, make mistakes, then he cannot create,” says Tastanbekov.

It is especially important that a young researcher willingly shares his/her own knowledge and experience. In addition to the aforementioned projects he has a YouTube channel called Q100, where he, together with like-minded people, tells in plain language about the novelties in the sphere of science and education.

“For self-fulfilment and bringing your ideas to life, you need to get rid of stereotypes; these ‘limiters’ do not give the opportunity to spread the wings for young talents and to do what they really love,” says the young scientist.

“The people still mistakenly believe that a good education provides a comfortable life. Yes, education really is a kind of social lift for humans, but it does not guarantee a successful life. Much more depends on the person,” adds Tastanbekov.

On the question of what the 100 New Faces project gives him, the young researcher says, “For me it is trust, which I want to justify. For that, I just need to keep doing what I am doing.”

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