Business Continuity

Principal Investigator(s):


The AgConnect® Business Continuity project brings together multiple components of a national response by the agricultural and public health sectors to mitigate the disruption to the normal business cycle for livestock, poultry, and associated animal products that is likely to occur during an animal disease outbreak in the United States. This work leverages the AgConnect® suite of tools in a data/information sharing and management architecture that allows for compartmentalization of business sensitive data, and for it to be distributed in a controlled manner and then integrated to support shared situational awareness and decision making in regards to business continuity.

The goals of this work include analysis of stakeholders, business continuity planning and operational procedures, and corresponding data/information requirements and gaps; establishment of an operational test bed and fielding a prototype system that demonstrates the necessary data/information linkages and tools to support business continuity operations; and creation of a plan that describes an approach to extend to a full-scale national deployment of the prototype across all industries.  The ultimate benefit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the agricultural industry of these integrated tools supporting risk assessment, mitigation, and management during response operations will ultimately allow business operations to resume through sharing of information to demonstrate proof of negative status.

The Challenge

The impact of an animal disease outbreak involves a complex array of stakeholders and their individual and collective interests. When faced with the uncertainties of a major disease outbreak, early responders and decision makers at all levels require tools to help them sort reality from chaos, and to select the strategies that will minimize the damage to human health, livestock health and the economy. The direct and immediate response must include both the engagement of emergency management professionals and the coordinated stakeholder involvement from other impacted communities.

Other associated areas supporting continuity of business that are impacted during a disease outbreak include the agricultural and allied industries, bio-surveillance programs, and veterinary diagnostic laboratories. Information generated and managed by one group of stakeholders is likely to have value to the others by promoting shared situational awareness and contributing to the formulation and execution of better decisions by all in less time.

The Solution

Researchers from the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) have been heavily engaged in the use of information technology and the implementation of decision support tools in each of these stakeholder communities for some time. These investigators are suitably positioned to address the requirements for exchange of information/ data across each of the communities from both a domain and technical perspective, especially focusing on business continuity planning and operations. This understanding is critical in the creation of risk management tools supporting the decision-making process. The connections between the IIAD and state and federal emergency responders provide the required interface with the respective stakeholder communities to promote integrated incident command. The project applies proven technology developed for the DHS and the USDA, and engages a rich network of stakeholder relationships in government, industry and academia


Secure Food Supply Plans

IIAD has established a partnership with Iowa State University’s Center for Food Safety and Public Health to leverage its ongoing efforts to develop Secure Food Supply Plans for the egg, turkey, milk and pork industries. Each plan has the need for real-time integration and display of emergency data. IIAD will facilitate the development of data-sharing technology that can provide this integration and display in an outbreak situation.

Characterizing Business Continuity as it Relates to Livestock, Poultry and Associated Products

A disease outbreak could result in significant economic loss to pork producers. Recognizing this vulnerability, the pork industry is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other stakeholders to improve the animal health infrastructure to a level that would support rapid response and business continuity. USDA has funded the Secure Pork Supply Plan, which will develop the standards to allow the safe movement of animals with no evidence of infection from swine operations in a disease control zone to a pork processing plant or to other sites to accommodate different stages of production.

The plan will require key pieces of data from multiple federal, state, and private sources (such as premises locations, livestock census information, disease surveillance results and animal movements) to be readily available for analysis. Many of the databases exist. However, the data must be collocated and synthesized into information that can be used to support business continuity. IIAD is working with government and industry to develop the capability to securely collect, share and synthesize this sensitive business practice information for decision makers.

Data-Integration and Data-visualization Technology

Researchers at IIAD will leverage its technology for data-integration and data-visualization to produce a common integrated display that supports shared situational awareness and that provides access to tools that facilitate risk management. The data-integration technology will support data aggregation and grouping, information searching and filtering, information synthesis, alerts, notifications, data security, access control, plug-in components and component management. The data-visualization technology will provide enhanced visualization and analysis of complex data. By incorporating these technologies, situational awareness can be improved by promoting vertical and horizontal information sharing in a manner demonstrated in other highly dynamic decision-making environments such as the military and emergency responder communities.

Technology Transition

IIAD researchers strongly promote the “spiral development” process, which puts stakeholders in the loop and promotes frequent interaction throughout the development cycle. The first implementation will go to a small group of stakeholders who are direct collaborators with this research effort. Through the National Pork Board, IIAD will use verified data to demonstrate proof of concept for information integration to pork producers and other stakeholders. Feedback from these stakeholders will be integrated into the technology toward a larger deployment. Throughout the entire span of the program, analysis will continue to refine/ expand the overall requirements. Training for all deployments will be accomplished through the use of training videos, webinars, and printed reference material.


  • Dr. Jon Zack, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services, National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management
  • Dr. Patrick Webb, National Pork Board
  • Craig Rowles, Elite Pork
  • Dr. Dave Schmitt, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Management


Maintaining Business Continuity and Performing Risk Management during an Animal Disease Outbreak