FFAR Awards Emergency Funds to Develop Tool to Mitigate Bird Flu

University of Minnesota Researchers to Create Easy to Use, Nationwide System to Improve Disease Prevention and Preparedness

 

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established in the 2014 Farm Bill with bipartisan congressional support, awarded $87,000 to University of Minnesota, where researchers will develop a nationwide tool to improve poultry disease prevention and preparedness. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for a total $183,000 investment.

One of the largest foreign disease outbreaks in poultry was attributed to H5N2 HPAI, a strain of avian influenza or “bird flu,” in 2014-2015, which resulted in the destruction of nearly 50 million birds and caused more than $3.75 billion in lost production, expenses attributed to disease control, and loss of export markets. With a new online tool, researchers have partnered to improve responses to outbreaks and help producers mitigate foreign animal diseases on farms.

The goal of this project is to expand a Minnesota state program into a national tool for farmers and poultry companies to improve disease prevention and reporting. This online tool would allow producers to more easily manage flocks through farm mapping and disease reporting, which researchers believe will help improve farm biosecurity.

“Farmers and producers are often the first line of defense against invasive pests and pathogens,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. “They are also greatly impacted by outbreaks through animal and economic losses. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support innovative technology to help farmers protect their livelihoods and our nation’s food supply.”

The new tool will allow companies to participate, which will fill a need to coordinate information amongst individual farms that send animals to a central processing location. The tool will also make standard reporting procedures, such as tracebacks and filing with the appropriate agencies, easier for producers.

Principal Investigator Carol Cardona, DVM, Ph.D.

The research team is being led by Principal Investigator (PI) Carol Cardona, DVM, Ph.D., Professor and BS Pomeroy Endowed Chair in Avian Health in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at University of Minnesota.   Shaun Kennedy, Director of Food System Institute, LLC, is a collaborator on this project.

“Responding to a foreign animal disease outbreak is complicated and the 2014-5 outbreak of HPAI taught regulators and producers of the need for coordinating on farm and external resources and personnel,” said Cardona. “The online tool we have developed helps to provide real time guidance through the newest forms and processes in easy to understand language for producers and farm details needed only in an emergency for first responders.  This tool provides a head start for producers and first responders that will result in faster outbreak control and recovery.”

“Through our long-term work on food system protection at Food Systems LLC, we understand how critical it is to makes tools useful on a regular basis so that organizations utilize them and effective when needed when events occur to mitigate the event’s consequence while also ensuring the security of each organization’s data,” said Kennedy, a collaborator on this project. “Our compliance with relevant U.S. government secure data requirements (FedRAMP) ensure that agricultural organizations, state agencies and the USDA are confident in using this new platform.”

The grant is issued through the Foundation’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program, an initiative designed to prevent and mitigate damage from emerging pests and pathogens through short-term research funding. Applicants are encouraged to form broad-based coalitions to increase research collaboration and maximize the mitigation potential of each grant.

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