Tulips and bitcoin have both been associated with financial bubbles in their day, but in a giant greenhouse near Amsterdam, the Dutch are trying to make them work together.
Engineer Bert de Groot inspects the six bitcoin miners as they perform intricate sums to earn cryptocurrency, filling the air with a loud groan accompanied by a puff of heat.
That heat is now heating the greenhouse where rows of tulips grow, reducing farmers’ reliance on gas, the price of which has skyrocketed since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The servers are in turn powered by solar power from the roof, reducing the normally huge electricity costs for mining and reducing the impact on the environment.
Meanwhile, farmers and Groot’s company Bitcoin Brabant are earning crypto, which is still attracting investors despite a recent market crash.
“We think that with this way of heating our greenhouse but also earning bitcoin, we have a win-win situation,” flower grower Danielle Koning, 37, told AFP.
The Dutch love of tulips caused the first stock market crash in the 17th century when speculation in bulb prices caused prices to skyrocket, only to crash.
Today, the Netherlands is the largest tulip producer in the world and also the second largest agricultural exporter after the United States, with much of it grown in greenhouses.
“Improve the environment”
But the low-lying country is keenly aware of the effect the farming industry is having on climate change, while farmers grapple with high energy prices.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrency mining requires huge amounts of electricity to power computers, impacting the environment as part of global efforts to combat climate change.
De Groot, 35, who only started his business earlier this year and now has 17 clients including restaurants and warehouses, says this makes bitcoin and tulips a perfect complement.
“This operation is actually carbon negative, as are all the operations I build,” says long-haired de Groot, sporting an orange polo shirt with his company logo.
“We are actually improving the environment.”
He also sells tulips online for bitcoins through a company called Bitcoinbloem.
The collaboration started when Koning saw a Twitter video Groot had made about bitcoin mining and called him.
There are now six servers in their greenhouse, the exact location of which Koning has asked to be kept secret to prevent thieves from targeting the $15,000 machines.
Koning’s company owns half of them and keeps the bitcoin they produce, while de Groot is allowed to keep his three servers there in exchange for monthly visits to clean dust and bugs from the servers’ fans.
With a difference of 20 degrees Celsius between the air entering and leaving the machine, this provides the heat necessary for the growth of the tulips and the drying of the bulbs which produce them.
“The most important thing we take away from this is that we save natural gas,” Koning says. “Second, well, we earn bitcoin by running them in the greenhouse.”
Huge energy costs have caused some Dutch agricultural businesses that often rely on greenhouses to stop growing this year, while others have even gone bankrupt, Koning says.
Meanwhile, philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who developed the idea of the unpredictable but historic “black swan” event, compared Bitcoin to the “Tulipmania” that engulfed the Netherlands nearly 400 years ago. year.
This saw the prices of a single light bulb soar to more than 100 times the average annual income in the era before the bubble burst in 1637, causing banks to fail and life savings to be lost.
The cryptocurrency sector is currently reeling from the collapse of a major exchange – with Bitcoin currently worth around $16,300 per unit, down from a high of $68,000 in November 2021 – but De Groot is not not worried.
“I have absolutely no concerns about the long-term value proposition of an immutable monetary system,” he says.
“Bitcoin will last forever.”
© 2022 AFP
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