Farming Chia is a hot topic among crypto-mining enthusiasts and first-time miners. Due to how (relatively) new Chia mining is the community is ready to start filling their Plots and Farming some easy money! In my opinion, mining Chia is unlikely to make the average miner a significant return and may not be as “green” as advertised.

Given the current state of the network, I do not believe that farming Chia is a worthwhile at the time of writing this article. However, I’m excited to see where the development team takes this project!

Note: I am using the terms [mining, farming] as synonyms for one another.

What is Chia?

Chia is a blockchain smart contract platform. Basically, it’s a network that implements blockchain and provides a programming language developers can use to create and manage smart contracts.

Although Chia has been around since 2017 the frenzy for Chia just started in 2021. It was created by Bram Cohen who is most commonly known as the author of the popular P2P Filesharing service BitTorrent.

Farming Chia is unlike regular proof-of-work mining that other blockchains such as BTC and ETH use. Instead of relying on the continuous computation of values and challenge solving, Chia uses a less well know consensus model called “Proof-of-Time-and-Space”.

An abbreviated description of this new consensus model is that secures the network by providing your storage space over a period of time. The Chia network generates a key, much like a lottery ticket number, if one of your plots in your storage farm contains the key, you get some $XCH as a reward.

PiB on the Chia Network by Date

As the amount of storage increases so does the difficulty of receiving a reward. Between March 28th 2021 and May 28th 2021, the capacity of the netspace increased by a staggering 7125% from 169PiB to 12329PiB. That a nearly 72x more difficult to farm than 2 months prior. Happy Farming!

Farming Chia Is Not As Green As You Think

One of the reasons many people have an interest in farming Chia is because storage space, when compared to other parts of a PC, is quite affordable. For example, an Iron Wolf HDD (4 TB) can be yours for as little as $100 USD. That’s insignificant when compared to the cost of an ASIC Miner for Bitcoin mining…I won’t even mention the current prices of GPUs for mining on the ETH blockchain.

It is true that the direct energy usage of an SSD or HDD while idle, waiting to be called on, is significantly less than the electricity consumption of an actively mining GPU or ASIC. However, there is more than meets the eye when considering how “green” Chia farming really is.

Hard Drives for Chia

As Chia farming becomes huge, there will be a significant increase in number of HDD and SSD that make their way to the eWaste recycling bin. I hate to burst your bubble, but, a huge amount of eWaste ends up crushed and buried in the landfill. Only a very tiny amount of the eWaste created will actually get reused.

Some articles have claimed that the SSDs which are commonly used are burning out in a matter of weeks. That could lead to huge spike in eWaste when compared to the lifespan of an ASIC or GPU. Seems to me like the runtime operation of farming Chia is more energy efficient, the entire process is not without environmental impact.

Can Mining Chia Cause Hardware Burnout?

According to news from mydriver SSDs which are used for temp storage while plotting your farms might only last 40 days before they become unstable from massive amounts of writes. That doesn’t sound cheap or sustainable.

In a response to these claims the Chia team claimed that these numbers were due to the use of “consumer hardware”. This statement leads us to believe that commercial hardware should be used. However, Chia themselves claim on their FAQ page “...Farming is more decentralized because it relies on empty hard disk space and anyone with a mobile phone, laptop…“.

As time goes on, the farming/mining community will likely begin to publish their personal findings.

SSD and HDD Supply Chain Issues

As though supply-chain congestion was not already bad enough, one of the last items everyone could readily buy is becoming a delicacy; large capacity HDDs and SSDs. Even for a consumer-grade SSD such as the Samsung 860 SSD this listing on Amazon does not support Prime shipping and has a shipping time of about 2 weeks. Tomshardware recently said that the price of specific HDD and SSD used for Chia farming has increased in price as much as $300 each.

Chia Build
Chia Calculator Recommended PC Build

In addition to the cost of storage going up, it’s a myth that you can efficiently create Chia plots on a Raspberry Pi. The Chia Calculator recommends that you build a NUC. That build comes in at over $1.2k USD to farm 10 plots on only 1TB of farmland.

Official Pools

At the time of writing this article, there are no official Chia Pools. Several privately operated pools have shown up recently. However, there are no rules or safeguards to prevent a non-official pool from scamming you out of earnings. In some cases, these un-official pools are requiring you to provide your private wallet key. No Bueno.

Huge Chia Wallet
3417 / 10000 rewards to a single wallet

Similar to other consensus models, proof of space and time is also susceptible to a 51% attack. At this time, an individual wallet represents as much as 34% of the total space on the network. That’s an incredibly slippery slope. At this rate, it would only take the operators of 1-3 pools to conspire against the network to cause complete mayhem.

Unlimited Scalability Farming Chia With Cloud Service

Okay, so you have a few extra TBs of storage and you decide to solo farm, no big deal. Let’s see how likely you are to receive a reward. According to the Chia Calculator, with 2TB and 20 plots, you have a .072% chance of getting a coin each day.

For those with access to large amounts of storage already available, they are just printing money by farming Chia. Turns out, if you have enough cash to start with you can just pay to win! AWS announced that it has plans for you to purchase so that you can farm chia in the cloud. Although I do not know the specific details on this plan, it seems like if you have the cash to spend, you can rent seemingly unlimited storage from AWS.

When you consider the influence that a single wallet can have on the Chia network, it doesn’t seem all that decentralized to me.

What’s Next?

Check out our into Helium ($HNT) and Tips for Earning More HNT.