How to Farm and Plot Chia Coins with just one Raspberry Pi
by Chris WasshuberThe Chia cryptocurrency has made a splash. It is the brainchild of Bram Cohen, the inventor of the BitTorrent protocol. Some say he is a genius. Others consider him a sleazeball and opportunist. I have no idea. I have never met him and don't know what he is. But my life experience has taught me that the truth often lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps he is a genius sleazeball. Who knows. This is not about Mr. Cohen. This article is about helping you make sense of it all and navigating the treacherous waters, or should I say 'farmlands' of Chia cryptocurrency farming.
Chia caused a shortage of storage space. Prices for hard disks and SSDs have increased due to that shortage. The Internet is filled with recommendations for pricey plotting hardware. It is crazy. I have been down that road a few years back with bitcoin mining. I barely broke even. It should be no surprise that a similar situation exists with Chia coins. I don't think many of the smaller farmers will turn a profit. They will invest a lot in hardware at the time prices are overblown and perhaps never make their money back. The Chia coin or XCH had a more or less continuous slide down from $1600 to now barely $200. Nobody can say where it will go, up or down, from here, but I think for the short to medium future it is more likely to further go down than to go up. The total network storage space dedicated to Chia farming has increased to more than 30 ExaBytes. The larger this goes the less you will be able to earn with your storage space. Over the last days, it seems to have stabilized, but anybody who has a smidgen of understanding of economics knows that as long as there is a profit to be made more will join, more hard disks will be bought and filled with plots, until the profit opportunity is gone. Thus the network space will continue to increase until there is little to no profit that can be made for the normal participant. As with any commodity, profit will reduce to cover the marginal cost. In the end, it will again, as with bitcoin mining, come down to operational efficiencies, that is size and capital of the operation so that one can procure hard disks at lower prices than retail price, and so that one can get electric power at a lower price than the regular person, like you and me, can get it. Even though Chia promotes the fact that less electrical energy is being used to farm Chia than to mine Bitcoins, it still requires a good amount of power. Something needs to keep those magnetic platters spinning. Also, don't forget how much power you waste and SSDs you trash plotting all those plots as fast as you can go. I already feel sad for all those who have plowed thousands of dollars into plotting hardware. Unless you were very very early, meaning March/April of 2021, you will very likely not make a big profit, or perhaps no profit at all.
I am a contrarian by nature, so I asked myself: Can I approach this differently? What if I experiment at the opposite end of the spectrum? What if I find the cheapest and lowest power hardware that can still plot and farm Chia? That is exactly what I have done. Over the last months I have used and abused a Raspberry Pi 4 to not only harvest and farm Chia plots but to at the same time create plots, too. For a mere $75 I can create a plot in less than 23 hours and have at the same time a full node, wallet, farmer, and harvester running. I don't use any SSD just plain old magnetic hard disks. All of this without occupying my regular computer and at a much lower power consumption than your typical plotting rig. I am explaining everything in my ebook How to Farm and Plot Chia Coins with just a Raspberry Pi.
This is a long-term strategy. With about 1 plot a day I will not break any speed records of filling up Terra Bytes of storage space. But then again this is not a formula one race. Money has a time value. It is a big benefit if one can delay capital investment. Slow plotting has the distinct advantage that one does not have to make a big capital investment upfront and that one can take advantage of special deals and particularly low prices over time. Just as hard disks are overpriced now, there will come a time when they will be particularly cheap. There will soon be a glut of disks and retailers will want to get rid of them at discount prices because manufacturers will overreact to the current shortage. Slow plotting allows one to take advantage of such swings in supply and demand. Time will also inform us if the Chia cryptocurrency can not only make a splash but also has staying power. Can it compete with Bitcoin and Ether? I don't know. I think it has a chance, but this chance is probably lower than most enthusiasts will want to admit. In any case, my recommendation is to take it slow. Don't get sucked in with the overenthusiastic crowd. By all means, do not stand on the sideline, do farm, or do purchase some Chia coins, inform yourself, keep up with the developments around Chia. Cryptocurrencies and blockchains will certainly not go away, but which coins will have long-term staying power is anybody's guess. Ultimately it will have nothing to do with farming or mining and it will also have not that much to do with technical details. It will all come down to usage. Which coins will garner the biggest adoption and thus the biggest use for more than pure speculation.