You’ve heard of Bitcoin miners, but Chris Ryan might be the first Bitcoin farmer. Ryan, co-founder of Chris and Kristina’s Market Garden in Rhode Island, found a way to nurture both seedlings and currency.
In the growing process, providing the right amount of heat is necessary to maximize the seed germination process. Many growers use space heaters or, depending on the size of the operation, much larger industrial heating units. And with that, the farmer has one input—electricity—and one output—heat.
Chris spotted an opportunity to subsidize the cost of his growing by using a Bitmain Antminer C1. By using the miner to create heat, Chris suddenly had two outputs, bitcoins and heat, for the cost of only one input.
“We have electric heat at home, and I picked up the miner last year to heat the apartment,” explained Chris. “The miner was still kicking around in the spring, so I figured I’d put it on the rack for the seedlings, rather than using the space heater.”
What Chris found was that the miner provided a sufficient amount of heat for his seedlings to germinate. However, it was the secondary output—bitcoins—that made it even more worthwhile.
“I would have been spending the money on the heat anyway. I would say that the amount of money I was spending on electricity was being paid back by the bitcoins the Antminer was generating,” he said. “When I first started, our cost for electricity was approximately 16 cents per kW. I was getting about .015 BTC per day.” But what he was also getting was 2,729 BTUs of heat based on the wattage of the C1.
The potential is there for other farmers (or any industrial heat user) to increase their heat generation while also increasing their Bitcoin rewards. While Chris was only running a solitary heating unit, it would have been easy for him to scale up his heat—and bitcoin—production.
The current model Bitmain offers is the Antminer S5, which sells for $378. Each machine requires only 590 watts of power and hashes at 1,155 GH/s. Based on that wattage, the S5 could generate 2,013 BTUs of heat. While it produces slightly less heat than Chris’ C1, it results in an increase in hashing power; therefore, more bitcoins can be generated for much less electricity.
Jacob Smith, the Overseas Marketing Manager for Bitmain, offered a theoretical implementation of using S5s for power generation. He suggested that a farmer might look to acquire an electric unit heater that costs $729 and gives off 17,000 BTUs based on the 5kW of required electricity. To simplify the calculation, he suggested that each kW costs ten cents per hour.
His proposed implementation would use ten S5s, which would require 5.9 kW and mine bitcoins at a total rate of 11,550 GH/s. The farmer would generate 20,131 BTUs of heat and approximately 3.4356 bitcoins per month, based on the current network difficulty. Based on the cost of both devices, by the end of the year, the farmer would have completely subsidized the cost of his electricity and walked away with an additional $2,379 in profit.
Even if the machines did not generate enough bitcoin to cover the cost of electricity, they could still be useful. “If you were paying ten cents per kW to run the machines but only making five cents per kW of miners running, you’re still spending 50 percent less on heating than you would just running a standard heater,” Smith explained. “But assuming ten cents a kilowatt, the power cost is $2.40 per day and the revenue per kilowatt per day at current network difficulty and exchange rate is $5.43.”
As Chris explained, he would have been spending the money anyway on the heat. “If you have electric heat, I don’t see why you wouldn’t use a bitcoin miner,” he said. And along the way, his heat paid for itself.