For all the hype and even the good cryptocurrencies have brought to the world, there is one frequently cited downside to having loads of computers constantly running and consuming electricity in a race to mine digital assets: its negative impact on the environment.
Detractors echo reports from Morgan Stanley that estimate the total energy consumed to support bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency network, rivals the total energy consumed by established countries like Argentina. Advocates counter that it still has potential to be more energy efficient than the traditional banking sector.
Whatever the case, one cryptocurrency entrepreneur has set out to challenge the notion that using major computing power to verify transactions, known as mining, is strictly "wasteful."
Prague-based Kamil Brejcha, co-founder of Czech digital currency trading platform NakamotoX, is using the excess heat given off by his mining equipment to help grow greenhouse vegetables. He recently shared on Twitter that he successfully achieved growing bunches of tomatoes he affectionately calls "cryptomatoes."
Heat from Brejcha's mining rigs is blown into greenhouses containing five acres of tomatoes, he says, instead of using traditional heaters — the custom where local climate doesn't allow for growing tomatoes outdoors during the winter.
"We are using the excess heat for the tomato greenhouse and it is working," Brejcha tweeted. It's all part of proving out a use case for the "agritechture blockchain start-up" he plans to launch after working out the kinks in his farming system.
A tight-lipped Brejcha declined to provide more details about his plans to expand the concept, saying only, "In brief, we are an agritechcture stealth start-up, creating an agriculture, energy and blockchain symbiotic solution." He also noted that a significant portion of the energy powering his mining operation stemmed from "communal bio-waste."
Brejcha said the tomatoes would soon be available for purchase at local stores, but revealed he settled on the vegetable after other plans didn't pan out. In response to one Twitter user inquiring why he wouldn't opt to grow marijuana, Brejcha tweeted, "unfortunately, because of local strict rules, we were unable to obtain a license for medical marihuana growing so we had to choose tomatoes and other vegetables instead."
The detrimental impact cryptocurrency mining has on the environment is becoming an increasingly discussed fallback of the technology as more and more computing power is dedicated to the endeavor.
Just last week, the small upstate New York municipality of Plattsburgh voted unanimously to suspend approvals on applications or permits for new commercial cryptocurrency mining operations for the next 18 months. Known for having comparably cheap electricity, the town had attracted at least two mining operations that had been playing a role in increased energy demand and raising energy rates for local residents.
Brejcha isn't the only entrepreneur challenging the view that mining digital assets is negative. French computing company Quarnot recently released a sleek space heater for your home that also mines for cryptocurrencies.
Such ventures may also help to solve another crypto problem. With the price of many coins in a downturn — bitcoin closed at $8,929.28 on Wednesday from a high in December around $19,000, according to coinmarketcap.com — those mining cryptocurrencies are looking for ways to offset the growing cost and often diminishing returns. (For example, the number of bitcoin miners receive for their efforts is, by design, halved every four years.) Lower crypto values can make the high energy bills and other overhead of mining unsustainable. Revenue-generating businesses utilizing the byproducts of mining could be part of the answer.
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