A modeling framework for the strategic design of local fresh-food systems

Hector Flores, Jesus Villalobos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The increase in demand for locally grown products over the last couple of decades has created one of the fastest growing sectors within the fresh produce industry. Our hypothesis is that micro and small farmers within local food systems are well positioned to take advantage of existing sustainable and profitable opportunities, specifically in high-value agricultural production. Unearthing these opportunities can entice more micro and small farmers to enter agricultural production, thus expanding the volume, variety and/or quality of products available for local consumption, which are often key factors in farming success. In this study, our objective is two-fold: (1) to demonstrate the hidden production potential that exist within local urban/rural communities and (2) to highlight the importance of supply chain modeling tools in the strategic design of local agricultural systems. As part of this study, we develop an approximation method that estimates a region's potential to produce non-perennial, vegetable items based on simplified yield functions dependent on temporal, temperature patterns. In this case, it is argued that although these estimates may not be exact, they offer practical approximations that help decision-makers identify technologies needed to protect their agricultural production, alter harvesting patterns to better match market behavior, and provide an analytical framework through which external investment entities can assess different production options. These estimates are integrated into a mixed-integer program that identifies an optimal set of small-scale operations (includes backyard-production), fresh vegetables, and wholesale markets to maximize the overall profitability of local agricultural systems. This framework conceptualizes an alternate supply chain structure that targets both internal and external consumption markets through coordinated local fresh food production. By incorporating vegetable yield patterns as a function of environmental and resource variables, the decision-maker can explore harvesting cycles of complementary regions matching market price behavior through a supply chain planning perspective. The methodology framework is applied to the design of a complementary local food system encompassing the states of New Mexico and Arizona in the U.S. Southwest region. This work demonstrates existing opportunities in exploiting complementary production capabilities of local urban communities and sets the basis for future exploration of the probabilistic components of agricultural production related to local fresh food systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAgricultural Systems
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Land-use exploration
  • Local food system design
  • Micro-farming
  • Yield gap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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