Japanese Data Center Starts Eel Farming Side Hustle

Three electric eels in a tank.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A data center in Hokkaido, Japan has diversified its business in an unexpected way: eel farming. A facility operated by Japanese company White Data Center (WDC) seems to be a pilot project for the company's more outside-the-box ideas; it already employs recovered snow as its source of cooling in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce cooling costs. The company plans to farm and sell the eels at least until the data center's full deployment, which is expected to occur by the end of its fiscal year.

The company initially flew in around 1,700 juvenile eels to be deployed in tanks that receive the waste water from the facility's cooling setup. The cooling is itself achieved by reusing fallen snow, with the water being heated up to 33 degrees Celsius as it cools the data center's hardware, which happens to be the preferred temperature for its biological denizens. Other organisms besides eels that were tested, include abalone, sea urchin, Japanese mustard spinach and cherry tomatoes.

Ultimately, eels won out over alternatives, with the company increasing its eel population to 6,000 around November last year. The eels will be allowed to develop to weights of around 250 grams before being sold and shipped. WDC has set a target of selling around 300,000 eels by 2023. 

That number of eels amounts to around 7.5 tonnes; considering how expensive Japanese eels are, with prices ascending towards JPY 3.6 million ($32,350, EUR 26,460) per kilogram, WDC seems poised to make a killing. There's a reason Japanese eels are often referred to as "white gold".

Tech companies have diversified into farming-related technologies before; at the onset of the United States' sanctions against China, a battered Huawei pivoted its AI tech towards pig farming as a way to diversify its income streams. But Huawei didn't actually grow the animals.

Eels are able to produce electric shocks to the tune of 600 volts per charge at 1 amp. That's enough to provide 600 watts of power - for one second - from a single eel - more than enough to power even the best graphics cards. Scaling that towards the number of eels WDC wants to ship, we're left with a thought that leaves us giddy: using the electricity generated by the eels to power the data center itself. Line up some batteries, and boom. 

Perhaps even Intel and TSMC may want to diversify their income, should difficulties in procuring components to fill their factory expansions come to pass. It certainly beats having empty factory shells collecting dust. Wouldn't that be a sight?

Francisco Pires
Freelance News Writer

Francisco Pires is a freelance news writer for Tom's Hardware with a soft side for quantum computing.

  • USAFRet
    "The company initially flew in around 1,700 juvenile eels to be deployed in tanks that receive the waste water from the facility's cooling setup. "

    Godzilla 2030!!

    Stay in your lane, bro.
  • Krotow
    Green energy source and a way how to get rid of company "enemies". Win-win.
  • goober0
    The article humorously theorizes about electricity generated by the aquacultured eels powering something. Not all eels are electric (only the genus Electrophorus is). Unagi (Japanese freshwater eels, Anguilla japonica ) are not.
  • jacob249358
    Those are some expensive eels. It would be pretty cool have an eel that grew up in water used to cool a data center.