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A new perspective on the analysis of vertical farms: an exploration of the potential of an open-source simulation software tool to develop a framework

Waldron, Diana 2021. A new perspective on the analysis of vertical farms: an exploration of the potential of an open-source simulation software tool to develop a framework. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis evaluates the various fields that have influenced the development of vertical farms, with a specific focus on the significant gaps that are found in the published literature. It aims to improve our understanding of the concept of vertical farms, bringing together the variety of theories that are attached to this industry. This work proposes a novel approach to tackle the gap in knowledge related to the area of simulation of vertical farms. Through this investigation it was found that the developed analytical and conceptual framework proposed has significant potential to calculate certain parameters relevant to vertical farms, but it requires further development in order to consider in more detail added important parameters. This study argues that the approach to vertical farming development requires a multifaceted integration of several disciplines and without this integration its deployment is significantly more challenging. The lack of data/knowledge sharing and transparency of information have been hindering the faster development of this industry. The proposed approach has been developed by scoping the capabilities of HTB2 as a potential software tool to develop a simulation framework. Although novel and positive in many areas, this framework still possesses several limitations, mainly linked to the shortcomings related to the detailing of plants’ characteristics. Simulations normally use a series of assumptions and simplifications and this case is not different. Nonetheless, the intrinsic characteristics of plants do require better attention. The limitations discussed in this thesis, suggest clear advisory steps towards developing further studies to be able to take this knowledge on board and move it forward. The software mainly focuses on the energy balance of the vertical farm, calculating for example the energy consumption of lights,ventilation, etc, as well as the relative humidity and other parameters. The framework is developed by using an estimated base-case scenario and it is thereafter tested with the monitored data of a real case study of a commercial indoor vertical farm, actively producing edible plants and fish using an aquaponic system, based in London (at the time of this investigation). Based on the literature found during the lifetime of this project, no other software tools have developed a comparative study such as this one, where results can be obtained to create parallel appraisals between monitored physical vertical farms and simulated representation of the same farms. The work presented here aims to serve as a tool for further development in this area, it humbly accepts that it is not a solution to all the problems faced by vertical farms yet, but it does bring this topic a step closer to finding a robust simulation model in this sector. An important aspect of this research was also affordability and accessibility of this framework. Since this research has found that one of the largest barriers to the wider implementation of vertical farms is the financial implication, it is therefore assumed by this research that the industry will not welcome another financial burden. The software used here is free of charge and open-source. Furthermore, this framework encourages transparent data sharing and flexibility to integrate future developmental needs within the framework. Overall, this thesis aims to demonstrate how the understanding of all the individual parameters and expertise that influence the field of vertical farming must be brought together to achieve a successful integration of this alternative agricultural practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 December 2021
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 01:53

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