Mining Bitcoin for Heat, Strawberries and Chickens


There are strawberries growing in the village of Neuville, Quebec, in the middle of a Canadian winter. The small farm Le Caveau à Légumes is funneling the excess heat from crypto miners to battle the frost, and grow a rarity for the region.

“Now is really cold, so we need the heat,” Melissa Girard, an agronomist at the small producer, told CoinDesk in a phone interview. “We couldn’t afford to produce strawberries if we had to pay for electricity.”

The farm is among a growing number of businesses and individuals turning to crypto mining for supplementary income, but approaching the highly consumptive industry in a carbon-neutral way. 

Bitcoin is wasteful by design. The distributed network eliminates centralized and trusted parties by trading energy for consensus. Miners – essentially specialized graphics chips designed to churn through cryptographic math problems – audit the network and receive the occasional subsidy for that work. 

Some see this as an inborn inefficiency, others as a necessary price to pay for an open and uncensorable payment network. No matter your view, however, it’s a fact that bitcoin mining expends a ton of power.

Cambridge University estimates the global bitcoin network consumes more energy than Ukraine did in 2019. This figure has certainly increased along with the cryptocurrency’s meteoric price rise, which draws in less-efficient miners that could now operate in profit. This is to say nothing of another bitcoin externality: heat.

Enterprising folks see that byproduct as crypto mining’s saving grace. For most of Bitcoin’s existence, it has not been economical for individuals to participate in the network by mining. But with a little know-how and some PVC pipe and duct tape, bitcoin mining can generate profit while helping to cut power bills.

Le Caveau began mining cryptocurrencies to generate heat for its greenhouses in 2018.
(Le Caveau à Légumes)

Le Caveau began mining cryptocurrencies to generate heat for its greenhouses, and help offset the cost of electricity, in 2018. It was part of a pilot for the upstart hobbyist mining manufacturer Heatmine, also based in the region, which never got off the ground. 

Founded by Jonathan Forte, Heatmine pitched itself as an ethical solution to crypto’s worrisome environmental footprint. The manufacturer wanted to offer a way for home and business owners to spin up a miner, earn passive income and recycle some of the heat generated in the process. 

While the startup has folded (the website is offline, and Forte now says his partners “never delivered”) the idea has taken hold even without dedicated heat-producing miners.

Jonathan Forte, formerly of Heatmine, is producing crypto-miners geared for greenhouses in Canada.
(Jonathan Forte)

Kevin Carthy, founder of bitcoin ATM operator WinnipegBTC, has been reducing his carbon footprint while participating in the Bitcoin mining ecosystem by recycling heat into his office since 2013, he said in a direct message. He…

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