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AgConnect Suite of Tools Gets Revamping

Last month, the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Center of Excellence, revealed a new look for the AgConnect suite of tools during the AgConnect Emergency Exercise. The suite was rebranded and renamed in order to better reflect the forward-thinking technologies and how they help veterinarians and animal health officials in the field.

Single Post Template - Magazine PRO Homeland Security TodayThrough the suite of digital applications and resources, AgConnect aggregates and disseminates critical, actionable information to provide real-time situational awareness of animal and public health trends. The suite of tools supports both sector-specific business continuity planning and the entire emergency cycle – from planning and preparedness to mitigation, response and recovery.

“AgConnect gives producers, veterinarians and state and federal animal health officials a robust, easy-to-use suite of tools that is applicable for use in both day-to-day and emergency situations,” said Gerald Parker, DVM, Ph.D., M.S., IIAD interim director. “Through giving these tools new names and a new logo, I feel like we have not only created a cohesive look but have also visually demonstrated how each tool works together within the system.”

During the AgConnect exercise, veterinarians, state and federal animal health officials and members of the food animal industry gathered in College Station, Texas for the first AgConnect Emergency Exercise. The exercise, which was hosted by IIAD, a DHS Science and Technology Center of Excellence and the Texas Center for Applied Technology (TCAT), a part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), evaluated how the AgConnect system can support national preparedness through electronic aggregation and visualization of animal health information.

Held at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service Emergency Operations Training Center on August 2-3, the data-driven exercise focused on a notional, high-consequence porcine disease scenario affecting Kansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa and a major swine integrators. State animal health officials (SAHOs) from each state participating in the Exercise, working together to control the spread of disease while also supporting business continuity through risk-based movements of uninfected animals during the notional outbreak. SAHOs were able to communicate with other states and industry using the AgConnect system, viewing multiple streams of animal health and production data in real-time and, ultimately, allowing for more informed decisions to manage the outbreak.

“We’re looking to showcase and assess how the AgConnect technology helps end users by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of decision-making and situational awareness – which increases accuracy and shortens the emergency decision-making cycle,” said Keith Biggers, Ph.D., TCAT director of computing and information technology and IIAD theme leader for information analysis systems. “We’re looking for input on how the technology can synchronize activities in emergency response, support business continuity and help support state to state activities during the response process.”

Throughout the two-day exercise, participants used AgConnect to work through three vignettes. Exercise players participated in the first vignette and worked through responding to the detection of a foreign animal disease agent in a commercial swine production site, the spread of the disease to three other states, creation of control zones and the review of In Case of Emergency – a secure data-sharing architecture built into AgConnect – between states and the swine industry. Wednesday, Exercise players participated in the second and third vignette to work through business continuity movements, permits and evaluation.

In addition to the exercise, IIAD revealed a new look for the AgConnect suite of tools. The suite was recently rebranded and renamed to better reflect the forward-thinking technologies and how they help veterinarians and animal health officials in the field. Part of this rebranding effort includes continuing to work to ensure these technologies are sustainable and available for long-term use by stakeholders.

According to DHS, “The suite’s new naming conventionsbetter explain the purpose of each technology and break the suite into two categories – mobile applications and analytical tools.”

Mobile Applications:

  • AgConnect mHealth – Formerly known as the Biosurveillance Field Entry System or BFES, AgConnect mHealth is comprised of industry-specific mobile applications that allow entry of animal health and production-level data on healthy and sick animals directly from the field.
  • AgConnect mCVI – Released earlier this year, AgConnect mCVI is an updated version of iCVI and is now available for iOS and Android devices. AgConnect mCVI allows veterinarians to submit certificates of veterinary inspection to state animal health official offices from their mobile devices.

Analytical Tools:

  • AgConnect HealthNet – Formerly known as Enhanced Passive Surveillance or EPS Analyst Workstation, AgConnect HealthNet provides a comprehensive view of animal health to aid in early detection or disease or monitor changes in animal health status.
  • AgConnect LabNet – Formerly known as the Laboratory Capacity Estimation Model or LCEM, AgConnect LabNet is a web-based tool that allows laboratories and laboratory networks to automatically determine capacity estimates, supply and equipment usage, personnel requirements, associated costs and process limitations to increase the nation’s capability to prepare for and respond to a high-consequence disease event.
  • AgConnect ResponseNet – Formerly known as the Emergency Response Support System or ERSS, AgConnect ResponseNet is a web-based response and business continuity planning suite that supports data integration and visualization for large- and small-scale incident management to facilitate decision-making to take action (e.g., permitting) through official government systems of record.

For more information on the AgConnect® suite of tools and the AgConnect Emergency Exercise, visit iiad.tamu.edu.

“AgConnect has been a big benefit to us,” said Maryn Ptaschinski, DVM, JBS senior staff veterinarian. “Our day-to-day data collection with the mHealth app allows us to collect data that can be visualized through the AgConnect dashboard – prior to using AgConnect, we were already collecting a lot of that data but the ability to visualize it in a quick and easy way has already had an influence on our policies.”

Photo: Patrick Webb, DVM, National Pork Board director of swine health programs, provided an overview of the importance of AgConnect to implementation of the swine industry’s Secure Pork Supply Plan – a plan to ensure continuity of business during an emergency disease event. Cristy Dice, Colorado Department of Agriculture Animal Health Division’s animal emergency management specialist, showcased how she has used AgConnect through multiple outbreaks and close calls – including Vesicular Stomatitis outbreaks, a contaminated river, a false alarm for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – along with day-to-day operations like receipt of electronic Certificates of Veterinary Inspection and commuter herd permits in Colorado.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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