Developer of mobile data centers next to greenhouse declared bankrupt

Blockheating from Heerlen has been declared bankrupt. The company was active in placing mobile data centers next to greenhouses. Blockheating supplied growers with hot water at 60 degrees Celsius, including a data center next to a tomato greenhouse in northern Limburg. On the IT side, however, the startup encountered challenges. As is often the case with bankruptcies, the startup then also lacked financial resources.

The company's focus was on heat supply via hot water. Blockheating's founders decided to take the air conditioning for cooling off server processors and install a cooling block in its place.

"Along the processor runs a pipe system with cold water that absorbs and dissipates heat from the processor like a kind of heat exchanger. As a result, for 1 MW of servers, we only need 0.05 MW of cooling power," they explained as recently as 2021.

A decisive benefit, according to the developers, is that the water can be heated up to 60 degrees Celsius in this way. Horticulture is interested in that warm water.

Besides a pilot in horticulture, a pilot with an agrocampus was also planned. That did not succeed.

To supply hot water to horticulture, it is important that the data centers run properly. For that, IT parties must want to use the data centers. Technically possible, but IT parties proved to have a longer than hoped-for lead time. Among other things, they are looking at data security and guaranteed uptime. The latter is jargon for the annual time a data center is available. Crucial for heat supply to growers is there are IT customers who use the IT capacity in a data center.

Placement of a trial container next to a tomato greenhouse in 2019. Blockheating had a 180-kilowatt-hour mobile data center running in practice, containing 120-kilowatt-hour of IT hardware.

Eventually, Blockheating wanted to grow into a service provider of both IT services and heat. The startup lacked the financial capacity to continue. A relaunch is being explored.

It is and remains clear to the initiators that the energy issue in horticulture is "very interesting" because of its flexibility and scale. Blockheating had now been operating for more than five years. Meanwhile, other parties have also started working on the link between data centres and the greenhouse.

Blockheating B.V. was declared bankrupt on 12 September 2023. The bankruptcy was registered under reference: 03.lim.23.149.F.1300.1.23. Mr. R.J.H.M. Crombaghs of Heerlen has been appointed trustee.

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