Scientists and researchers increasingly use simulations because its cheaper and faster than groping in the dark with some equipment until they have a better idea exactly what to test for. This is especially true in some fields more than others, say protein folding, but I see the value in simulations in all sorts of aspects of things. The real trick is how far you you plan to detail your model. Is it just a very high level of something like farm yields in acres to how many people that can feed, or clear down to the level of water, fertilizer, light, and CO2 required as well.
A simulation is exactly that. Determine the design goals, and sim the important part. Some of my sims, like power production set various solar panels at a maximum output, dependent on cloud cover and sun angle for that time of day. Others depends on things like molten solar salts and the total heat mass available to draw from. Its not really what I've designed thats important as it is the process of discovery as to watching what happens as a model runs. This is something that cant be easily captured in a spread sheet.
It sounds like there are plenty of programmers around here, so the question becomes how to manage and organize projects in a way that uses the fellow Asgarians in a useful way. Certainly some project management, but also, goals to let them loose on to see what can be done.
I know from my own sims, that food production and management, takes more of my time than most things. projecting food growth so things dont run out, making sure the grid has excess supply, so there are no brown or black outs. All such things need to be taken into account.
This is exactly why I started such a sim, to understand some of the complexities involved.