Inspired by a 6PB Farmer with a distributed farming setup @Jon from our very own discord suggested to write about some of our farming setups we all have.
If everything will go according to my plan, this will become an article series about how different people choose to farm chia, which difficulties they had on their journey and what their lessons learned are after almost 9 months of farming chia.
The first “interview” will be with myself because, yeah, I know my reasonings best.
If you have an interesting setup and want to have some internet fame please ping @speedmann#6896 on discord or let me know in one of the official channels that you are interested.
Who are you? Some background about yourself please
I usually go by the name Sebastian in the real world, but for Chia I choose to be speedmann. I’m a 32 years old systems administrator from Germany and therefore naturally interested in all things tech. My crypto experience is truly limited and started back in 2010-2012 with Bitcoin, where i actually mined BTC for half a year before quitting. At that time i had around 12 BTC at hands and forgot about it. Around 2016 I remembered i had some Bitcoin around and sold them because WOAAA it’s around 300€. At around the same time, I started mining monero for a month or two, because i liked their privacy centric approach. I also quit that early around the 80€ mark.
My crypto experience could have ended here, and it did until I heard about Chia in march 2021…
Why farm chia?
Let March 2021 approach during a time, where due to “current world events” i had much more free time than usual and an interested work colleague who heard about that new fancy “Chia thing”. Knowing there have been plenty of more or less successful attempts to do crypto with HDDs (Let it be filecoin, burst, whatever) i was interested to see what Chia does. And it was engineered by Bram Cohen himself. Reading all the things available at the time, seeing how low the entry barrier was back than and hoping to be part of something “new” I decided to join farming Chia with a simple, small 12TB drive.
What hardware are you using?
I started with what i had at hand. A small 12TB HDD, a 5 year old Intel Core i5 and an old, used intel SSD. Money spent: 100€ for the used SSD. That could have been it. For weeks nothing happened and then one sunny morning, I woke up to a block reward in my wallet. This was pre transactions.
Cue transactions going live and the first exchanges like okex listing chia. I was amazed about the price, well knowing this won’t last. In hindsight I waited for longer than i should have to sell my precious XCH and sold around 1000€ each. Selling at this price made it possible for me to start my farm like it is today.
Today my farm consists of 25 HDDs of various sizes totaling around 100TB in size. Ranging from 3TB up to 12TB. These disks are happily running in an old NETAPP DS4243. All of them attached with a single Dell SAS-Controller 2-CH SAS 6G PCI-E LP HBA to a farming Server.
The farming server has changed a lot over times. I started with a raspberry pi, changed it to a HP Microserver gen8 and sooner rather than later exchanged it for a DELL R430 with 128GB RAM (When madmax plotter became available that looked like a reasonable thing to do)
Do you have a special networking/distributed farming setup?
Due to my small size of the farm, and using enterprise technology made to scale well, I had no opportunity to look into some special, distributed network scenarios. Everything is running on a single VM without any special setup.
Given the chance to start over in March again, what would you do different?
There is not soo much i would do different from what I did. One thing I certainly should do different is planning ahead better. I chose my disks based on the inflated Chia price and therefore did not keep an eye on power usage. Because, why should I? It’s just 5-7W. In hindsight, this was the most stupid idea I had during my farming experience. 5W does not sound much, but scaling it up to 25 drives, that’s already 125W base load.
Remember, I live in Germany. Those 125W will come back haunting me in the next paragraph…
Are you pooling or solo farming?
As every “early adopter” I started farming solo. Which brought me my first block ever. Seeing the total netspace increasing every day and my estimated time to win also growing to several months, i felt the need for more frequent rewards. Before pooling was officially available I joined foxypool (I never “felt” using hpool. Please don’t ask for reasons) and as soon as official pooling was available I started re-plotting for a pool. I won’t go into details on which pool I farm, because that really does not matter. I tried multiple of them, and the difference for me was marginal. In the time period where I farmed in a pool I found another 3 blocks…
How much did you invest in your setup?
I don’t want to publish too many details here, as some of the invests are now being used for something else and are absolutely not necessary or wise to make for farming (I bought a new Rack, because i can).
The overall ballpark of investment is around 1.500€
How time consuming is running your farm? Do you have monitoring?
As I already was familiar with most of the tools used, my farm does consume less time than you might think. Setup time for the initial farm and plotting probably was around 20 hours. During plotting, I spend around 1 hour each day to check if everything is working as expected. With plotting is done, I barely touched the farm at all. Every now and then I installed the required Chia updates and probably spent less than 3 hours in total keeping the farm running.
Initially, I monitored the shit out of my setup. I was using chiadog and even wrote my own chia prometheus exporter. I had setup a prometheus with grafana and also monitored my HDDs S.M.A.R.T data. While time advanced and I switched servers several times, I neglected my monitoring. At the end I stopped caring about it at all and just relied on the pool notifications they sent out when you did not submit partials for more than 30 minutes.
How profitable is your farming setup?
In the beginning, it all looked fine and great. On a month per month base i made profits which i deemed worth the work i had with the farm.
You might wonder why the costs change so much over the time… From may to august I was still plotting (You have to re-plot for pools…) and therefore the DELL R430 was running under full load consuming I think over 200W in the process. I did not care, because Chia price still was good.
September and October were the first months where I finished plotting, but did not bother to move the farm back to my more power efficient HP Microserver. I finally moved the farm there, reducing my costs down to 50€ per month.
Those costs, that’s all *just* electricity. It does not have depreciation factored in. No maintenance work or replacing failed disks.
So, was my farming profitable? No. It never was. As I did not sell any XCH farmed during the farming period, I’m now even at a loss. This might change in the future.
In november i had a power consumption of over 170KWh at 0,30€/KWh.
At the time of writing, i’m at a net loss of 122€ without hardware investment…
What are your plans for the future? Will you keep farming?
I shut down my farm at 12.12.2021. Just because farming with my setup is making me a loss at current price level. Not farming and just buying Chia for 50€ a month is a more profitable way of going on.
So, will i stop farming Chia forever? Probably not. The disks and the plots are still present and I do not have any intentions of deleting them soon. If the price will climb back to a level, where farming is at least covering the costs, I’m back in business.
I also thought long time about replacing my less than 12TB disks with bigger ones, improving efficiency, but as I have not made any real profits right now, this was already out of question.