This week, 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, hosted by the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security 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), is evaluating how the AgConnect® system can support national preparedness through electronic aggregation and visualization of animal health information.

Held at the TEES Emergency Operations Training Center on August 2-3, the data-driven exercise focuses on a notional, high-consequence porcine disease scenario affecting Kansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa and a major swine integrator. State Animal Health Officials (SAHOs) from each state are 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.

“Today, 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 will use AgConnect® to work through three vignettes. Today, 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 will participate in the second and third vignette to work through business continuity movements, permits and evaluation.

Prior to the start of the hands-on portion of the Exercise, attendees heard from multiple speakers who are experts in the swine industry and users of AgConnect®. Maryn Ptaschinski, DVM, JBS senior staff veterinarian, explained how JBS Live Pork – one of the largest swine integrators in the country – uses AgConnect® on a day-to-day basis to visualize production data.
“AgConnect® has been a big benefit to us,” Ptaschinski said. “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.”
On Tuesday morning, 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.

In addition to the Exercise, IIAD also 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. To view all of the new logos, visit iiad.tamu.edu.