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Amsterdam (AFP) – Tulips and bitcoins have been associated with financial bubbles in their time, but in a giant greenhouse near Amsterdam, the Dutch are trying to make them work together.
Engineer Bert de Groot inspects six bitcoin miners, who fill the air with a loud whine and blast of heat as they perform complex sums to earn cryptocurrency.
That heat now heats the greenhouse where the rows of tulips grow, cutting off farmers’ dependence on gas, whose prices have risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The servers, in turn, are powered by solar energy from the roof, which reduces huge electricity costs for the mine and reduces its environmental impact.
Meanwhile, both farmers and de Groot’s company, Bitcoin Brabant, are cashing in on the cryptocurrency, which is still attracting investors despite the recent market crash.
“We have a win-win situation by heating our greenhouse this way and also earning some bitcoins,” flower farmer Danielle Koning, 37, told AFP.
The Dutch love of tulips led to the first stock market crash in the 17th century, when speculative bulb prices drove prices up and then down.
The Netherlands is now the world’s largest producer of tulips and the second largest agricultural exporter after the United States, many of which are grown in greenhouses.
“Improving the environment”
But the low-ranking country is well aware of the impact of its agricultural industry on climate change, and farmers struggle with high energy prices.
Meanwhile, mining for cryptocurrency requires large amounts of electricity to power computers and impacts the environment amid global efforts to combat climate change.
De Groot, 35, who started his business earlier this year and now has 17 clients, including restaurants and warehouses, says it makes bitcoin and tulips a perfect match.
“This operation is actually carbon negative, like all the operations I’ve built,” says the long-haired de Groot, wearing an orange polo shirt with his firm’s logo.
“We’re actually improving the environment.”
He also sells tulips online for bitcoin through a business called Bitcoinbloem.
The collaboration began after Koning saw de Groot’s Twitter video about bitcoin mining and called him out.
They now have six servers in their greenhouse, the exact location of which Koning has asked to be kept secret to prevent thieves targeting the €15,000 machines.
Koning’s company owns half of them and keeps the bitcoins they produce, while de Groot is allowed to keep three of his servers there in exchange for monthly visits to clean the servers’ fans of dust and bugs.
With a 20 degree Celsius difference between the air entering and leaving the machine, it provides the heat needed to grow the tulips and dry the bulbs that form them.
‘Do not worry’
“The most important thing we get out of this is natural gas savings,” says Koning. “Secondly, we earn Bitcoin by running them in a greenhouse.”
High energy costs have forced some agricultural firms in the Netherlands, which 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 an unexpected but historic “black swan” event, compared Bitcoin to the “Tulipmania” that swept the Netherlands about 400 years ago.
This saw the price of a light bulb rise to more than 100 times the average annual income before the bubble burst in 1637, causing banks to fail and people to lose their life savings.
The cryptocurrency sector is currently suffering from a major stock market crash — bitcoin is currently worth about $16,300 a unit, down from $68,000 in November 2021 — but De Groot isn’t worried.
“I have no concerns about the long-term value proposition of a fixed monetary system,” he says.
“Bitcoin will last forever.”
© 2022 AFP