As a result of the increasing human population, the availability of resources per capita has been vastly diminished in the last decades. Naturally, the depletion of valuable environmental assets such as water and arable land, poses a threat to mankind’s sustainable development. In this regard, various novel ideas have been proposed for processing agricultural products ecologically and sustainably; one of such ideas is vertical farming (VF). VF is a novel production technology that aims at enhancing both the yield and the product quality, by growing them in highly packed, high energy-density systems with high mass-flow rates and in a controlled environment. The technologies required for VF have been developed and successfully tested, thereby producing crops that meet the requirements of food safety, adequate nutrient content, and maximum yield. However, the extremely high biomass densities and high turnover rates employed to give rise to challenges regarding to energy efficiency and homogeneity patterns.
In this work, a P-graph model is presented for the integration of VF systems. The algorithmic approach is employed to evaluate options for process integration and intensification of VF with plausible synergetic production processes into a dense urban environment. As a result, 115 integrated process alternatives are identified for the base case, with the best structure exhibiting a total cost of 41,920 EUR/y, thereby yielding reductions up to 11% for the total cost of the integrated network. The pareto front of economic performance and CO2 emission is presented to illustrate the potential benefits of integration, and the capability of the methodology to evaluate alternative designs.