Growing greens with cryptocurrency in Labrador: That's the hope for Koinedge Farms
Koinedge anticipates enough produce to feed every Labradorian 86 vegetable servings a year
With its proximity to Muskrat Falls power and naturally freezing temperatures to offset air conditioning costs, Labrador has become an ideal place for data centres.
But even with the cold climate, computer networks used in these centres still generate a lot of heat, and now one company has developed an idea of how to recycle it.
Koinedge Farms plans to mine digital currency — also known as cryptocurrency — at a data centre in Labrador, and use the waste heat generated by computers and servers to grow food.
"There's a little reason for people to be unhappy about these facilities because they use an enormous amount of power and don't provide a lot of benefits to the community in terms of jobs," said Robert Edgeworth, the founder of Koinedge Farms.
While the company currently does not have any data centres in Labrador, it has invested more than $1 million and purchased two pieces of land in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Other data centres in Labrador have received noise complaints but Koinedge wants to address those concerns.
"We're engineering the building specifically to manage the noise, so all of the fans that are moving air are built within the structure so that the noise is contained," Edgeworth said.
"We also engineered the fan sizes to be substantially over the required airflow so that they don't run at full speed."
They anticipate producing enough produce to feed every Labradorian 86 servings of vegetables a year.
"Our response to finding a solution that's fair to the community was to look at coupling the food production to both increase the number of jobs created per megawatt usage, and also the greater community gets the benefit of having fresh, high-quality food," Edgeworth said.
Koinedge has an existing data mine in Nevada but doesn't use it as a greenhouse, as there's no food security challenges in that area.
"In the pilot facility we'd have about a thousand square feet and that would generate on the order of 600 pounds of fresh produce a week," he said.
Growing food 'best application' of excess heat
Edgeworth has estimated that up to 25 per cent of greens consumption in Labrador could be grown at their facility.
"There's a very deep resource of warm air that could be used for various applications, but we think that food is probably the very best application," he said.
At this point we've been waiting two years to get any sort of approval from Hydro and we continue to get no positive feedback.- Robert Edgeworth, founder of Koinedge Farms
Edgeworth said using vertical farming in a greenhouse supplied by waste heat is a unique concept.
"There's one case I know of where somebody's operating a greenhouse that was set up as part of a power plant, but the concept of coupling it and the vertical farming technique — and particularly the challenges you have in the north in terms of supply chain for food — are fairly unique," he said.
The company anticipates the project will create 24 full-time jobs if it goes ahead and will reduce carbon emissions by 577 tonnes per year from shipping produce.
But they still have a lot of challenges to face before they're up and running.
"At this point we've been waiting two years to get any sort of approval from Hydro and we continue to get no positive feedback," Edgeworth said.
But for now, it's still a waiting game for Koinedge farms.
"Unfortunately [Hydro's] very not-committal at this point."
From the time Hydro hypothetically says yes, it would take about three months to get the pilot plant up and running.
"Until that gets resolved, we're at a standstill."