Home Agriculture IT and GIS on front lines of agroterrorism fight

IT and GIS on front lines of agroterrorism fight

State and local homeland security officials got a sneak peek at a new system at Omaha in a US state, that may one day play a critical role in preventing a massive outbreak of food-borne diseases.

Speaking at the North Central Regional Homeland Security Conference, state law enforcement and private-sector officials outlined what they consider an urgent need to get standardized IT tools into the hands of both cowboys and security officials to help identify and respond to acts of agroterrorism, the deliberate introduction of biological or chemical agents into the nation’s food supply.

And now the nation’s farmers and livestock owners are getting help from an unlikely source: Science Applications and International Corp. (SAIC), a major Defense Department systems integrator. Recently, SAIC completed a successful three-month pilot project for Clinton County III., called the Interactive Livestock Emergency Response Tool (ILert). The system is among the first designed specifically for the farming and livestock industries and may contribute significantly to the need for standardized data for agroterrorism monitoring.

ILert is a Web-based GIS application that provides 2-D and 3-D data visualization for state homeland security crisis managers, as well as disease outbreak management tools, predictive modeling capabilities for predicting how a disease might spread, and the ability to deploy handheld systems to emergency response teams and farmers in the field. A back-end database allows users to drill down into all of the available data to view profile information on specific farms as well as the nearest location of health care facilities.

SAIC is now considering working with Deere & Co.’s Lenexa, Kan., marketing office to integrate the 1.3TB of agriculture-specific GIS data contained in the GeoVeritas framework. He added that SAIC may also work with commodities organizations that have indicated a willingness to assist with data collection.

To help farmhands and ranchers report animals that appear to be sick, such as a cow that shows signs of mad cow disease, SAIC has integrated GPS-enabled handheld devices into the ILert system. The handhelds enable real-time reporting of suspicious symptoms in animals or incidents at farms and provide access to diagnostic information from local veterinarians contracted by local ranchers to care for and monitor the health of livestock.