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Food and Ag Department Seeks Info on Enterprise Solution

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is seeking to replace an outdated system with one solution that better meets the varied needs of its Emerging Threats project.

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is asking tech vendors for help with devising and implementing a single, enterprisewide solution for the next iteration of its Emerging Threats project, ideally one that includes Salesforce technology.

CDFA’s request for information, issued March 23, relates to the department’s plans to update and upgrade its Emerging Threats system, which is used by about 200 staffers to collect, manage and report all program activities in CDFA’s Animal Health and Food Safety Services (AHFSS) Division.

CDFA says it seeks “to reduce dependence on in-house/on-premises resources by leveraging cloud services and utilize enterprise-type solutions for similar business functions that can meet multiple business needs.”

“I think there may be a large vendor interest, as the solution types we're prioritizing the need to leverage our enterprise solutions, which include Salesforce and other supporting solutions,” said Rob Peterson, agency information officer for CDFA. (Peterson was profiled in Techwire One-on-One in August.)

“This is a significant nondelegated project,” Peterson told Techwire. “We are projecting to award a contract in early FY 23/24, with a funding request going forward for the project.”

The RFI points out both the mission of CDFA and its need: “AHFSS is responsible for declaring an animal disease emergency, establishing quarantine zones and recalling contaminated animal products,” it says. “These quarantines and recalls rely heavily on accurate demographic and geographic information for farms, processing and retail facilities. In addition to responding to emergencies, AHFSS focuses on preventative programs that optimize the use of limited resources through the use of risk-based inspections that use real-time data. Therefore, the collection and management of reliable data becomes essential in the prevention and response efforts.”

Among a long list of “significant issues” that affect the Emerging Threats project today, the RFI cites:
  • Operational constraints that directly affect information quality, causing duplicate and/or incomplete data in the system.
  • The inability for staff to adequately schedule activities, to include inspections, product and animal sampling.
  • Integration limitations among systems, such as integrating external data from the California Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) Laboratory, which provides laboratory results for samples collected.
  • Lack of business integration such as among licensing, inspection and enforcement functions. That lack of integration deprives staff of the ability to efficiently manage noncompliance cases.
  • The replacement of the original project with new tech “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.”
  • Weak security protocols.

The current system incorporates 28 applications, including web modules and mobile apps, that utilize a common database. The system uses a variety of software, five different programming languages and numerous versions of those languages, making daily maintenance and operations a challenge.

As an example, the RFI says, some mobile apps are no longer compatible with current development tools, making debugging of the code impossible. And some older web modules were developed using old web frameworks, while newer applications use current versions.

“This limits AHFSS’ ability to quickly have changes made and implemented to respond to routine and emergency animal disease and food safety issues,” the RFI says.

In addition, under the current system, “management reporting and trend analysis abilities are weak,” and “online services to the public are inadequate.”

CDFA began its technology transformation by using funding from the California Department of Technology, and it contracted to use Salesforce Government Cloud Plus Platform and other Salesforce components as the primary enterprise platform for implementing business applications.

CDFA is currently on contract to implement one IT prjoect on the Salesforce platform “and is planning the implementation of several more in the very near future,” the RFI states.

“While the use of Salesforce and related solutions is not a firm requirement, the supportability of any proposed solution, considering CDFA’s existing support commitments by CDFA IT resources, will be a consideration,” the RFI notes.

“This RFI is the first step in determining what, or if, potential solutions currently exist, how closely these solutions match the program’s defined needs, if there are any significant procurement or technical hurdles/obstacles that could be mitigated by changing the solution approach, and how the solution may be procured,” the document says.

The Office of Information Technology Services says it may issue a request for proposal, a request for offer, a request for quote or another state-authorized procurement method.

CDFA held a vendor conference this week and has another planned for 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday, via Zoom. More information is available through the RFI.

Those seeking to respond to this RFI are asked to submit an electronic file with a cover letter, a Microsoft Excel format file of the completed RFI attachments, and any supporting documentation. Responses must be sent via email to CDFA.IT_RFI_Response@cdfa.ca.gov by 5 p.m. April 13.
Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in Northern California.