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State Ag, Food Entity Seeks Information on Threats Solution

The California Department of Food and Agriculture wants to learn about potential options to replace a key system it uses to guard against consumer, livestock and economic health threats.

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The technology entity for the state food and agriculture department is seeking IT vendors to provide a new “external threats” solution.

In a request for information (RFI) released April 30, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Information Technology Services seeks to hear from contractors on the potential creation of a new “CDFA External Threats Two (ET2) application system solution.” CDFA’s Animal Health and Food Safety Services Division (AHFSS) is the lead state organization that safeguards consumers, livestock and the state’s economy against catastrophic animal diseases and other health- or agricultural-related issues. Its responsibilities include declaring agricultural emergencies, setting quarantine zones and recalling contaminated eggs and dairy products.

The RFI says “the collection and management of reliable data becomes essential in the prevention and response efforts.” Among the takeaways:

  • The current External Threats (ET) system is used by about 200 AHFSS staffers to collect, manage and report program activities and is the “primary source of demographic and geographic information used to respond to emergency animal disease outbreaks and food safety incidents.” However, the web-based system is now more than 10 years old and has issues, including “operational constraints” that yield duplicate and/or incomplete data; an inability to adequately schedule inspections and product sampling; and integration limitations between systems and business units.

    “(T)he replacement of ET is essential to address mission-critical gaps in information management for AHFSS programs and to establish a system that can effectively provide time-sensitive reliable data and reports for daily workload and emergency response,” according to the RFP.
  • More specifically, the ET’s operational and functional issues needing “expeditious resolution” include updating a system founded on 28 applications and which uses five different program languages; improving the ability to quickly provide accurate, reliable information during an outbreak; and imposing common underlying business rules to ensure consistent, nonduplicative data across multiple programs. CDFA also needs a new ET with modern security protocols to do a better job of capturing information from mobile devices; do more to connect activities like licensing to compliance or enforcement actions; automate entry of data from the public; create a “web-based portal to allow producers online, real-time access to inspection results” and enable credit card payment for fees and licenses.
  • Among the information sought from contractor responses, CDFA is interested to learn whether a company would be the provider of a solution or an integrator; the exact services that a contractor would provide; and the solution software, hardware and architectural features in question. This last information is needed “due to the potential need for the solution to grow or be implemented incrementally and has a concern that the architecture of the solution may hinder this evolution,” CDFA said, adding: “Of high interest is CDFA’s ability to move data into and out of the solution and the solution’s ability to interface with other systems, including existing CDFA systems.”
  • CDFA and its IT services office may subsequently do a procurement for an ET2 entity. This RFI, the department said, is the first step in identifying potential solutions and how they match needs, and any obstacles or hurdles in the way of a procurement. The potential term or value of any such future contract isn’t indicated. Responses are due by close-of-business on May 24.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.